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Swimming has 'given me my life back' after chronic pain

Swim England News

After years of working a desk job and sitting for long periods of time, Paul Kirby suddenly found himself suffering with intense back pain.

As time wore on, he developed a limp and required a steroid injection to manage the ongoing symptoms.

Searching for a more effective way of managing the condition, Paul was advised to start swimming, simply starting out with a front crawl.

That proved to be life-changing advice for the Hertfordshire man, who stars in the latest Swim England-led #LoveSwimming campaign Moving Medicine, which urges the medical profession to be more proactive in prescribing swimming as part of a programme of activity to manage medical conditions and aid recovery.

“I was told to just manage the pain with pain relief and I was always looking for something better,” Paul said. “I went to the physio and he suggested that I try swimming as a way of alleviating the pain.

“I started off learning to do one length, then two lengths and then three lengths. After a while I did 20 and now 40 lengths and the further I go, the better I feel afterwards.

“Since I’ve been swimming, I’ve felt that I don’t need to go back to the doctor, to the physio, to the osteopath. I don’t need to take drugs to manage my condition. I’m confident enough after several years that swimming is usually the answer for me.”

A new lifestyle

Paul’s story is one which many can relate to.

Given the seemingly innocuous nature of the injury, he suggests those who work at desk jobs and suffer from back pain turn to swimming at an early stage.

“Physically, mentally, it’s given me my life back and it’s enabled me to do the things that I thought I’d never be able to do again, like running. I’m careful and as long as I’m going to be careful, I know that I’ll always incorporate swimming into my life.”

Elaine McNish, Head of Health and Wellbeing at Swim England, believes Paul’s experience in the pool could help to change the way physical conditions are treated.

“Swimming is an ideal activity which can help people manage a range of medical conditions,” she said. “We are calling on the medical profession to consider recommending swimming to people who would benefit from improved physical health.

“To have the support of people like Paul who have experienced the benefits swimming can have is fantastic and I sincerely hope it inspires others to try swimming and transform their physical health.”

The #LoveSwimming campaign is delivered by Swim England in partnership with 1 Life, Active Nation, Active Lifestyle Centres managed by Circadian Trust, Everyone Active, Freedom Leisure, GLL, Gateshead Council, Leicester City Council, Nottingham City Council, Nuffield Health, Places for People and Serco.

Moving Medicine is the latest wave of the campaign and has featured other swimmers highlighting the benefits of swimming on their physical health, including Steve Wright, who began swimming as a form of rehabilitation after suffering a stroke, and Wanda Stockdale, who said visits to the pool has helped her manage her osteoarthritis.