Butterfly Back : Swimming Injuries

Though swimming is generally beneficial for back pain sufferers, it can be the cause of it in some cases, especially amongst elite butterfly swimmers.

What Causes Butterfly Back?

Butterfly back is most commonly developed during the butterfly stroke because of the pressure that is exerted on the lower back while performing this stroke. The continuous action of arching the spine (hyperextension) puts pressure on the lumbar vertebrae located at the base of the spine. It is also becoming more prevalent amongst swimmers using the undulating technique in breaststroke for the same reason. It is thought that kicking drills where the upper body stays relatively still because of the use of a float exacerbate the problem by focusing the ‘whip’ on the lower spine.

What are the Symptoms?

The main symptom is back pain, which may be mild or severe and can be very persistent. The pain is likely to get worse when the back is straightened fully or bent over. Other symptoms may include swelling and restricted movement.

How is Butterfly Back Treated?

The most common treatment is rest combined with anti-inflammatory medication and pain relief. In many cases pain will continue until it is controlled by analgesic medicine. Ice packs, heat treatment and massage may also contribute to recovery. Treatments such as physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractic have all been shown to help as well. Sporting activity should be avoided as much as possible, and ideally until full recovery as further activity may prolong symptoms and/or lead to a more serious injury.

How do you Prevent Butterfly Back?

Stretching properly and increasing warm up time may help prevent butterfly back, along with an assessment of your technique, but unfortunately there is little else that can be done by way of preventative measures due to the nature of the stroke and the cause of the injury.

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