Did you know that 40% of your total body length is the spinal column, and 20% of that is disc height? So basically 8% of your total height is due to your discs (assuming you have absolutely no DDD, which is a huge assumption if you are over 40!)
Excessive compression of the discs may in theory be a part of the mechanism of low back pain, thus perhaps explaining why some individuals benefit from treatments focusing on unloading, such as extensions in prone, inversion tables, back braces, mechanical traction or even spinal decompression machines. But why do we only focus on passive methods of unloading? What about ACTIVE unloading? Solution: Aquatic rehab!
In one pilot project, asymptomatic subjects had their stature measured with a precision stadiometer, before and after carrying a backpack that was 10% of their body weight for 20 minutes.
As expected, all the subjects had a small (5.4% on average) reduction in height after carrying the heavy backpack. Then half the subjects either floated in the pool or sat in a chair on land for 30 minutes. Those in the water had significantly greater recovery than the subjects who simply sat on land (p<0.05). These results suggest that floating in water for 20 minutes facilitated more rapid stature/height recovery from spinal loading. So if you’re ever feeling a little “weighed down,” jump in that pool and have a swim! Your spine will thank you for it. Reference: Camilotti, BM, et al Stature recovery after sitting on land and in water: Man Ther 2009, 14:685-689