Scuba Diving and your Back and Neck

Scuba is a popular sport here in south east Asia as well as around the world. It is the best kind of sport according to me, I am a newbie in diving and somehow when I do dive the Physiotherapist in me starts looking at how it can hurt the back and neck after you have been diving for days.


Our body is not used to diving, as we were made to be on land and not swim like mermaids. The pressure that surrounds us is different because there is minimal gravity and increased pressure which helps us float under water. Put in another 8 kgs to 10 kgs of the tank and our weight plus BCD it changes the story entirely.

I am going to just list out why there is pain in the back and what we can do about it.


There are 2 main issues here firstly we have heavy equipment to carry, from the resort to the boat and throughout our dive plus when we come up. Another issue is us extending our necks when in the water to look above and around us, this hyper extension of the neck puts quite a bit of strain on our muscles supporting the neck. We will not notice all this when diving but rather in the night or the next day.

Diving is one of those few sports where you do not have to be super athletic to be able to do it, you just need to be someone who does not have any health problems. This is a main reason why we start getting nagging pain in the back. Our lifestyle has become so sedentary and unfit that we are normally not used to exercise. Then asking someone to lift heavy equipment day in and out for anywhere from 3 to 10 days, 3 to 5 dives a day can cause pain.

So how can we prevent this problem? Lets have a look.

  • When carrying your equipment bring it as close to the body as possible and do not hold it with just one hand, like you see the dive masters doing.
  • If you do have to carry your tank to the boat then wear it along with the BCD and weights and then walk to the boat, this makes the load easier to carry.
  • Ask your buddy to help you put on the tank so you do not have to twist and turn when wearing it.
  • When lifting something heavy, bend from your knees and not the hips to lift it up.
  • After your dive has completed and you are surfacing up, when climbing the boat make sure you go up slowly to avoid twisting especially when the water is choppy. Use your hands to bring yourself up as much as possible.
  • When ever possible do a giant stride entry as it puts less pressure to your back compared to back roll.
  • Become a buoyance expert, the more buoyant you are the less pressure load on your back and neck.
  • Exercise and stretch before, after your dive and keep fit generally, you will find your next dives much easier if you are fit.
  • Once out of the water, drink plenty of fluids to hydrate yourself. Avoid coffee and tea when you are diving as it dehydrates the body. Avoid alcohol before diving and even after try to hydrate yourself in between drinks.
  • And if the pain is worst then apply ice if it is swollen if not apply heat, rest for a day or so before you go for another dive.

Once you are back have a physiotherapist look at it for you to advise and treat you back to a full recovery.

Here are some simple stretches and exercises you can follow.

The cat and camel Stretch. Do this 2 times a day 10 reps each

These are just general exercises for the back, if these do not work and pain persists, you will need your physiotherapist to prescribe more specific exercises for your condition.

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Karishma Jhaveri

Karishma Jhaveri

Physiotherapist at Physio Savvy
Karishma completed her Bachelors in Physiotherapy from Manipal, India and has also completed Mulligan therapy certificaion. In Manipal Hospital, she worked for 3 years in clinical placement under several areas including diabetic clinic, pediatric wards, burns ICU and cardiac ICU. She then continued working in Mumbai under the President of Indian Association of physiotherapy Dr Ali Irani. Her work also includes health surveys in India for WHO in rural parts near Manipal, and she has taken a special interest in working with children.
Karishma Jhaveri

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