Hydrotherapy and your spine

Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae, which are separated by ‘discs’, plus the fused vertebrae of the sacrum and the coccyx. The main jobs of your spine are to protect the spinal cord (which runs down through the middle of the spine), provide support and structure to the skeletal, and to provide flexibility so that you can bend over and turn around.
The spinal discs have a strong fibrous outer layer to give structure and support, while still allowing movement between the vertebrae, and a jelly like substance inside to absorb shock. Nerves from the spinal cord exist the spinal column at specific points.

Sometimes, the spaces between the vertebrae (the discs) become narrower and stiffer. This can result in pain (as the nerves have less space to move in, and the jelly-like substance absorbs less shock) and stiffness (because there is less flexibility in the vertebral joints).  

Hydrotherapy can help relieve these symptoms. As you float in the water, your ‘weightlessness’ helps to open up the spaces between your vertebrae, easing pressure on the nerves and loosening stiff joints. The warm water is also very good for improving circulation, and relaxing spasm in muscles around the spine. The water is a very effective place as well to re-train and strengthen the spinal muscles, particular the core muscles. This is often not possible to do due to load and pain out of the water.

There hasn’t been a lot of good quality research into hydrotherapy and low back pain, but I can tell you from countless numbers of patients I have treated with low back pain that it can be very effective.


In my experience hydrotherapy isn’t a cure-all for low back pain but it can be a very effective starting point where land exercise is difficult to manage. Hydrotherapy can also then be used as an ongoing back management tool along with other forms of treatment. You will still need to do exercise out of the water as well.

Contact us if you wish to investigate your spine or hydrotherapy further. We are here to help!


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