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January 2009    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 24, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Easing Back Pain While Diving

from the January, 2009 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Lifting and carrying heavy dive gear is an obvious cause of lower back pain, but a second major cause is often overlooked. While swimming or finning through the water, many divers arch their lower back, like they’re face down in a hammock. A small inward curve is okay in the lower back but when you increase that curve, you’re overarching, a symptom called hyperlordosis. Divers doing this will usually notice the pain after a dive.

According to Dr. Jolie Bookspan, author of Diving Physiology in Plain English, overarching pinches the joints of the vertebrae and surrounding tissues. “The fulcrum of the kick becomes the facets instead of the ab and hip muscles.” Even when the back pain progresses, often nothing shows up on x-rays. The cause is often unrecognized and patients are told they have sacroiliac, joint dysfunction, or nonspecific back pain. “Eventually, this exaggerated curve of the spine can damage structures enough to show. Until then, it just aches a great deal.”

To get rid of the pain, you don’t need medicine, physical therapy or surgery, says Bookspan. “All you need to do is to stop overarching and maintain a neutral spine when diving, walking or swimming.

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