Swimming and Sciatica – Is Swimming Good for Sciatica?

swimming and sciatica

Many people have a question as to whether swimming can help sciatica or not. Well, the answer is not a straightforward YES or NO. It all depends on how you use swimming for relieving the symptoms.

If you use it inappropriately, the low-impact, aerobic exercise of swimming can induce or worsen the sciatica symptoms. However, if you swim in the right way, then it is likely to alleviate the symptoms. This post aims at revealing how sciatica and swimming can go together. 

Overview of Sciatica

Sciatica in itself is a symptom, and not a medical condition. It is a symptom of lumbar radiculopathy. It is believed that sciatica is induced by some medical issues in the back such as slipped disc or spine narrowing.

Sciatic pain occurs when the sciatica nerve experiences compression and becomes sore or inflamed. This compression and the resulting inflammation can trigger debilitating pain, numbness, and tingling in the lower back, the rear of the legs, buttocks, feet, and toes. These reactions may last for a few weeks to some years.

Although sciatica is usually linked to back pain, it is likely to affect other parts of the body. This is because the sciatic nerve, as the body’s longest nerve, extends from the spine and reaches the feet. With this in mind, swimming can benefit people suffering from sciatica by relieving them from the pain. It is also likely to relieve the affected joints from stress while boosting the overall flexibility.

sciatic nerve
sciatic nerve

Is swimming good for sciatica?

It is a fact that swimming will not cure the condition completely. However, it is believed to be an effective form of hydrotherapy that can alleviate sciatica pain while restoring your body into shape. It is actually a proven therapy or a workout for those having back pain

The underlying reason is that water delivers buoyancy to the body due to which the pressure induced on the muscles, joints, and sciatic nerve can be reduced. The body in the water moves quite softly as well as gradually. Further, the feel of weightlessness enables moving and twisting in ways, you otherwise could be unable to do. This aids in loosening the tight joints as well as muscles, which otherwise would result in pain.

Swimming is a low-impact workout for the full body, which helps in releasing endorphins, chemicals in the bloodstream known to alleviate pain while boosting mental health. It has a significantly lower impact on the spine than other aerobic workouts such as running.

Suggested article: Is Running Good For Sciatica? – 8 Running Tips for Sciatica Patients

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Too much running or running at high speeds with inappropriate shoes can trigger significant damage to the spine. The inevitable, repeated shock from the feet reverberates to the spine, making it compressed. This is something that swimming eradicates.

It does not jar the spine or the joints while improving the heart rate and burning several calories. One of the common forms of swimming recommended for relieving back pain is lap swimming. However, it is only effective if the strokes are done right.

Swimming exercises for sciatica

An ideal form is where you retain your head and neck in alignment to your spine while performing the low-impact workout. You are also required to use a snorkel and goggles to keep your face in the water for maximum time.

You should consider beginning with a breast stroke that induces less hyperextension than rotating or twisting in case of the freestyle strokes. The latter strokes are likely to exacerbate sciatic pain.

swimming backstroke

Sciatica and Swimming: The Possible Harms and Their Prevention

While being in the water has reduced workout impact on the body, the freedom to move around can also be unfavorable for your body. An unsuitable form or stroke can harm your body. As swimming gives you the freedom of moving in atypical ways, it takes no time for you to start following bad practices that can induce back pain.

A front stroke or form is often regarded as harmful. Herein, the lower back is overstretched and the neck keeps spinning constantly. For those with back pain, the most ideal stroke is the back one. This is because the back does not bend and moves more gradually than the front stroke. Still, excessive front stroke is harmful, as overusing it can trigger spinal disc pain.


Sciatica and swimming can go together if you go with the most comfortable strokes. You simply need to take it easy to perform these strokes.

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