When you have lower back pain, exercise is a double-edged sword. On one hand, regularly working out can provide serious relief so you can get back to your best self relatively quickly. On the other hand, it can prolong and worsen the pain, causing you to be laid up for even longer. So you know you need to stay active, but how is that possible without making things worse? The key to exercising with lower back pain is to follow a plan that makes the safety of your lower back a primary consideration.
Choosing the Right Exercises
It feels counterintuitive, but the truth is that you shouldn’t stop exercising when you’re suffering from lower back pain. The experts say that not getting enough movement can lead to weakened core muscles, which makes the pain worse over time and contributes to other health problems. On the other hand, routinely exercising has been shown to reduce pain in the low back.
The kinds of exercises you choose will have a major impact on the success of your efforts. Here are some good and bad examples of exercises to do when you have back pain.
- What Not to Do – As a rule, you don’t want to do any physical activity whatsoever that will put undue strain on your back, as this can worsen the pain. Blacklist any and all exercises that put too much stress on the spinal disks and ligaments—toe touches, sit-ups, and heavy weight-lifting, for example. Of course, contact sports or any activity that involves sudden movements, such as tennis or racquetball, should be off-limits as you heal. The key is to stick to gentle, controlled movements.
- What to Do – Do strength-building and aerobic exercises that are going to help support your back muscles and spine, including those that strengthen the core, back, and shoulders. If you’re waiting for a muscle to heal, stick to low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, or yoga. Gentle stretches are important for helping you keep your back muscles limber so you’re more mobile.
Tips for Exercising with Lower Back Pain
Once you’ve created a back-friendly workout plan, be sure to follow these tips to keep everything moving smoothly.
- Recoup after being active. After you work out, try low-level laser therapy for lower back pain. Products like the CuraviPro Belt can temporarily relieve lower back pain associated with mild to moderate aches, muscle spasms, and inflammation, so they can help you feel better as you heal.
- Take it slow. Whatever you do, don’t push yourself too far when you’re suffering from an injury, such as a lower back strain. Ease your way back into working out little by little so you don’t put excessive pressure on the injury.
- When at the gym, use weight machines and avoid free weights. Guided weight machines are designed to help protect the muscles, ligaments, and tissues while strengthening, so they can prevent worsening your injury. Remember that strengthening the core is the key to back health, so don’t skip the weight training.
- Do modified exercises. It’s not often a good idea to stick to the routine you had before your pain began, but you may be able to alter it slightly to get the same (or similar) results without worsening your back pain. There are many great modifications you can do to protect your back. For example, skip the standard squats in favor of squats using a stability ball between you and a wall to prevent the spine from curving, which can lead to lower back pain.
- Don’t forget to rest. If you have a back injury, a big part of the healing process will involve rest. Taking an extra rest day or two in between workouts can aid in healing and prevent the pain from worsening.
- Work out with a trainer or teacher. Personal trainers, fitness instructors, and yoga teachers are all trained to help individuals exercise according to their own unique bodies and limitations. If you aren’t sure what to do, consider turning to a fitness professional to help you stay active the right way.
Push Yourself to Stay Active
Lower back pain is a huge inhibitor, often preventing you from doing many of the things you love. Though physical activity may feel like the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling sore or achy, it may be one of the best things you can do to help lessen the pain and get back to feeling like your best self again. Just make sure to take every precaution you can take to protect your back from further strain so you can reap the full benefits of exercise.