Top 5 Tips for Diving with Chronic Back Pain

Back pain is a common occurrence these days with sedentary lifestyles, but it needn’t deter divers from enjoying their time in the water. Divers can manage chronic back pain whilst travelling and diving, plus take actions to minimise the chance of back injuries reoccurring. Here are our top five tips for diving with chronic back pain:

Choose the right dive gear

The correct weight distribution is important in minimising back pain, particularly lumbar pain. Whilst most divers learn with a weight belt around the waist, and weights distributed around the waistline, there are other options. Using weights in BCD pockets, tank weights, or positioning weight on a belt at the front of the waistline, are great ways to reduce pressure on the spine without compromising a diver’s body position in the water.

Choosing the right BCD is also important and divers should try on a variety of styles and manufacturer’s BCDs before making their choice. Back support sizes and positions vary, as do pockets for weights, and should be considered. Diving wings are another popular option to try.

Being cold can easily aggravate a sore back and choosing the right wetsuit, or drysuit and undersuit combination, is important. The addition of a thermal undersuit or rash vest, can make a big difference in keeping injury-prone backs warm and in preventing muscle spasms.

For those who struggle to bend or turn their necks, extra consideration should be given to the choice of mask and fins. Open-heel fins with spring fin straps allows for easy removal with minimal bending required. A wide field-of-view mask helps reduce the need to twist the neck during dives.

Try different finning techniques

Kicking from the hips with straight legs is a common finning technique but it can put pressure on the spine. An alternative finning technique is the frog kick, which can be easily learnt. Divers should consider a session with an instructor to learn different finning techniques whilst checking for unnatural back arching or strain.

Take a back pain survival kit

A simple kit for relieving back pain can make a big difference when on a remote diving trip and unable to access a physiotherapist. Include pain relief and anti-inflammatory medication, a tennis or cricket ball for self-massage of the back, a hot water bottle for easing muscle tension, a lumbar support brace, and a length of physiotherapist band for stretches.

Learn some yoga and pilates exercises

Yoga and pilates are popular sports for preventing back injuries and are helpful for improving flexibility, core strength, and posture. Divers with back injuries should seek medical advice prior to undertaking new sports and consider seeing a physiotherapist for a personalised yoga and Pilates routine.

Keep well hydrated

Back stiffness and pain can be due to poorly hydrated or injured spinal discs. Be sure to keep hydrated every day to allow spinal discs to rehydrate and support the back for years to come.

This article was written by Kathryn Curzon, a writer and diver for Liveaboard.com.