The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Lower Back Pain From Swimming and SCUBA

Lifting and carrying heavy dive gear with good lifting mechanics is good and functional exercise. With bad lifting habits, it is a common and obvious cause of lower back pain in scuba divers. A second major cause of lower back pain after SCUBA and swimming is often overlooked and can occur after scuba diving and after swimming laps with no gear lifting.

When swimming or finning face down and horizontally through the water, many divers allow their lower back to increase in arch. They look like they are face down in a hammock - shown by the figurine below:

A small inward curve belongs in the lower back. When you allow the normal inward curve, (normal lordosis) to increase, it becomes hyperlordosis or overarching (swayback).

For most people, hyperlordosis is most common when upright, such as standing, walking, and running. Swimmers and divers who allow their back to overarch when swimming face down often notice the pain after swims and dives:

How Hyperlordosis Causes Lower Back Pain
Hyperlordosis pinches the joints of the vertebrae called facets and the surrounding soft tissue. When swimming and diving in hyperlordosis, the fulcrum of the kick becomes the facets instead of the muscles of the abs and hip. When standing upright with a hyperlordotic lower spine instead of neutral spine, the weight of the upper body presses down on the overly pinched-backward lower back. Running in hyperlordosis causes more of the banging and pressing.

People with lower back pain from hyperlordosis usually feel they need to bend over forward, or sit, or raise one leg to relieve it. Often nothing shows up on x-rays and scans. Eventually, hyperlordosis can damage structures enough to show. Until then it just aches a great deal.

The cause of this kind of pain is often unrecognized and people may be told they have a condition called sacroiliac, or SI joint dysfunction, or nonspecific back pain, or other names.

Next - Part II, How to Stop Lower Back Pain From Swimming and SCUBA tells how to recognize it and what to do

Photo 1 by hb19
Photo 2 by Jolie
  • 1
Was this article helpful? Yes No

About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.