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Swimming and sciatica

Swimming and sciatica

Many people are unaware that sciatica is considered a symptom of a medical condition, and not a medical condition in itself. Sciatic pain is caused by the sciatic nerve experiencing compression as a result of an underlying disorder. Although sciatica is often associated with back pain, it can also affect other areas of the body. This is due to the sciatic nerve which runs through the spine, legs and feet. Because of this, swimming can be a very beneficial way to ease the pain of sciatica, loosen joints and increase overall flexibility. In extreme cases, sciatica can render individuals unable to move without experiencing severe pain. Pain can start in the back, buttocks, or in areas of the legs and feet. If you think you are suffering from pain that is related to sciatica, it is a good idea to visit your GP for a proper diagnosis.

How can swimming benefit individuals that suffer from sciatica?

For many that experience sciatica, exercise can be the last thing on their mind. Exercising when you are experiencing pain or discomfort can be off  putting, but exercise is very beneficial for those with sciatica. Exercise helps with flexibility and nerve pain and also releases endorphins in the body (the body’s natural painkillers). Swimming can be a great way to allow you to stay mobile and active when you are experiencing pain due to the weightlessness experienced when exercising in water. This also means that your joints, muscles and nerves will be under less pressure but still able to strengthen.

Advice for swimming with sciatica

If you decide to use swimming to alleviate pain from sciatica, it’s a good idea to avoid anything too vigorous. This means opting for sidestrokes over more advanced techniques such as butterfly. If you are experiencing severe back pain, you should also avoid swimming strokes that are known to put a strain on the back, such as the overhead crawl or breaststroke. However, some individuals may find these strokes beneficial for building strength in the back, so it’s advisable to discuss your options with your GP before deciding on what is best for you.


  1. Karen on March 3, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Is there a movement in aquafit I should not do ? Every time I start aquafit my sciatica acts up. No aquafit movement hurts in the moment but the pain starts in bed.

    • SPRC on March 4, 2020 at 3:24 pm

      Hello Karen,
      Sounds like you are pretty active, which is good to hear. You should definitely keep that up. Whether or not it is Aquafit specifically that is triggering your symptoms or just any physical activities that are a bit too vigorous it is hard to say. Maybe you could try dialling the movements down a bit. Maybe you could try reducing the range of motion a bit particularly any movements that require you to lift the knee high and flex at the hip. Hope your symptoms settle soon.

      • Nikita patil on March 25, 2020 at 10:43 am

        Does sciatica related to body weight?

        • SPRC on March 25, 2020 at 7:46 pm

          Hi Nikita,
          Your weight does not determine whether you have sciatica symptoms or not, but if you do have sciatica being over weight may make the symptoms worse.

  2. Ben on February 19, 2020 at 4:58 pm

    Sciatica pain in right calf and foot whats the best exercise .

    • SPRC on February 19, 2020 at 9:11 pm

      Make sure you get some advice from a healthcare professional like a physiotherapist Ben. In a previous blog we describe some exercises you can try before getting out of bed in the morning if you have sciatica. Give those a try and see if they help. Best regards.

  3. William on January 31, 2020 at 9:45 am

    If I pat on my lower back I can feel a shooting pain down my right leg on every pat right to the back of my knee. I have been swimming all this week and still the pain is there. Will this pain go away.

    • SPRC on February 2, 2020 at 7:40 pm

      Hello William,
      What you describe sounds like lower back nerve root irritation causing sciatic pain symptoms, but the best thing to do is to get it checked out by a health care professional like a physiotherapist or your doctor to confirm. If it is sciatica the pain will eventually go away if you learn about what you need to do and follow any sound advice given.
      Best regards

  4. Sabrina on November 25, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    Is it normal to have sciatica in both legs with numbness and struggling to weight bear on both legs ? Accompanied with lower back pain to

    • SPRC on November 26, 2019 at 9:55 am

      Hi Sabrina, it is unusual to have sciatica in both legs at the same time. If you have not done so yet you need to visit your Doctor to get a diagnosis. Pain in both legs can be a symptom of something called cauda equina. Don’t delay in going to the Doctor.

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