I do not wish to step on anybody's toes here: I realise each and every condition and patient are unique. There are, after all, a myriad of complications, age groups, concurrent diseases and body types.
Anyway, 5 weeks ago I had reached a nadir with my back condition; the pain was just getting progressively worse, the pain meds weren't helping and my mind spiralled out of control. After receiving a selective nerve root block, I was ready to do something. The PT exercises were not ideal for me (tedious and painful), so I decided to take up swimming again. I had always enjoyed swimming and was in competition as a youngster. I did a bit of research and asked my therapist (a former swimmer) which strokes to swim and how warm up. The results were immediate: in the first week I swam about 10 (25m) laps. The back pain was gone for at least 2 hours, and, more importantly I began to feel more positive. From the second week I started combining my swims with a sauna session once a week, which made me feel even better.
I now swim 1300 metres 3x a week and have become somewhat addicted - the downside: mild shoulder problems. This is probably down to poor technique and posture and I've now signed up for a course with a coach.
The bottom line: I am convinced that swimming can work for most people. It isn't necessary to do it as intensely as I am right now - the main thing is low-impact, cardiovascular exercise to improve body and mind. My message: try to overcome any inhibitions, learn a good stroke and you will not regret it. When I don't swim for more than two or three days, the pain comes back, the leg goes numb and I start feeling miserable.
Herniation L4/5, L5/S1