Pooled Resources: Swimming and Chiropractic
By Dr. Molly Casey
Swimming is an excellent all-around workout and fun time for many. It’s a low-impact exercise that is a great option for many folks, especially those whose body doesn’t do well with higher impact sports or exercises. It’s summertime, so what better time to learn a bit more about the sport and staying healthy? Chiropractic can give you a great advantage for preventing injuries while swimming, upping your performance and treating injuries should they arise.
What you do directly prior to your swim affects your performance and decreases the risk of injury. Stretching prior to swimming is certainly a wise idea. Special attention should be paid to the hip flexors, which are the major muscles responsible for the bending motion at your leg, hips, and spine. These muscles contribute to your kick regardless of a straight freestyle, breaststroke or dolphin kick. The gluteal (buttock) muscles are also important to stretch. These, too, assist at some level in all of your kicks. Upper body and shoulder stretches are very important as shoulder injuries are a common problem with avid swimmers.
Here are 3 stretches to get you started:
1. Stretch your hip flexors (make sure to watch this video for a clear understanding as this one can be a little confusing):
- Drop to one knee and have the other knee out in front of you with the ankle positioned out in front of that knee
- Tilt your pelvis posteriorly (think of tucking your tailbone under)
- Lean forward into the knee that isn’t on the ground (make sure not to bring that knee in front of the ankle)
2. On the bench near the pool, sit to stretch your glutes (figure 4 in the link below):
- Take one leg, rest that ankle on the top of the other knee
- Gently lean your chest forward until you feel a stretch in your buttocks
- Hold the stretch for 30-45 seconds each side 2-3 times
- Click here to read other options
3. Grab your towel for a simple shoulder stretch prior to starting (Rotator Cuff Stretch No. 1 in link below):
- Hold it a little wider than shoulder width apart out in front of you
- Slowly raise your hands up, moving above your head and then as far back behind your head as you can comfortably go
- Hold for 30-45 seconds and slowly bring back to starting position
- Check out this article for a couple more options
Warming up is another helpful element to prevent injury and get the best performance in the water. Spend five minutes taking a few laps at a significantly decreased pace, doing much lighter work. Then swim one or two laps with more intensity and finally get into the regular pace of your workout. Following a warm-up, practice allows your body and its muscles time to acclimate to the increased workload to perform appropriately.
While swimming, be mindful of your body alignment and stroke path. Move through full ranges of motion and make sure that you’re not getting lazy with poor body mechanics. It’s easy in workouts, especially as you tire, to let the actual movement become sloppy and disjointed to some degree. When you do this, you put your body at much greater risk for injury.
If pain is present and persists, give yourself a rest and try again to see if it’s still present. If it’s not, continue on. If it is, switch to a different stroke and continue your workout. Remember, some movement is better than none; however, you do want to be safe while trying to achieve optimal health in the process.
Wrapping up your swimming workout is similar to beginning it. Stretch the same muscles you did prior to starting because they’ve been worked out vigorously, hopefully. Take a few laps of cooling off or a warm-down lap to let your body once again acclimate to a decrease in the demand you’re placing on it. Abrupt starts and stops don’t serve the body well in regard to the exercise periods. This acclimation time lets your body’s physiological processes slow down in accordance, as well.
Regular Chiropractic Care
Regular chiropractic adjustments can serve you and your swimming routines well. First and foremost, regular adjustments support optimal nervous system functioning. The nervous system is responsible for every function in your body, including all the messages to those muscles and joints that are responsible for movement during your swim, as well as the breathing and heart rate that increases during your workout.
Regular chiropractic adjustments support the proper joint range of motion for your spine and the muscles attached to it, all of which are used in your swim. Chiropractors can also manipulate extremity joints such as shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. All of these joints are used in a swim workout and full range of motion of these joints supports injury prevention and improved performance.
Should the undesirable happen and you do get injured in your swim or from the repetitive motions of your stroke, use chiropractic. Chiropractic adjustments can increase your body’s ability to heal quicker and with greater efficiency, as well as help decrease inflammation and pain.
Swimming, whether for fun or sport, is a healthy way to spend your time in summer. Let the chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic help you help yourself prevent injuries, improve your performance and, if need be, heal faster!
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