Longer days and warmer weather – as winter winds down and spring amps up, the desire to get outside, get active, and shed a little weight begins to sound much more appealing! However, for many, there’s a consistent problem standing in the way: back pain.
Back pain is far from a rarity – in fact, experts estimate that nearly 80 percent of the entire population experiences back pain at some point, so if you’re in this group, you’re certainly not alone. The frustrating reality is that back pain also has a way of derailing a lot of activities that keep us moving, working out, and generally feeling good.
But consider this: what if you were able to find alternative ways to work out and be active without aggravating your pain? And, what if we told you that, by doing this, you may actually increase your chances of kicking your back pain to the curb for good? Below, we’ll dive into strategies that allow you to get a good workout while mitigating the stress on your back.
The Injury / Inactivity Cycle
Picture this: you’re getting back in the routine of working out, and getting more excited each week with what you’re able to accomplish. The endorphin rush that comes from a good sweat feels great, and you’re even starting to drop a few pounds too. You’re getting more intense with your workouts until one day you push too hard, and it sends a searing shock up your back, reawakening that pre-existing pain. Sound familiar?
It’s easy to get excited about a new workout or weight loss routine and do a little too much too soon. And, nothing kills the desire to exercise than pain while doing it. We get it – if certain movements make your back pain spike, the urge to stop is natural. It’s a protective mechanism built into our bodies, and most of the time it’s a good thing. However, it can have a way of persuading us to stop all activity when that may not really be the best answer.
Completely halting movement – in many cases – could actually make back pain worse as one big culprit of back pain is immobility. The less you move, the easier it becomes for your back muscles to stiffen up. This, subsequently, can also make it easier to injure this area in general.
What we’re saying is this: don’t be wary of working out in general because of your back pain, as the right activities could actually lead to better overall and back health. But of course, if you’re experiencing back pain, it’s always best to work with a medical professional to understand the severity of your injury and appropriately monitor your activity level.
The Dos And Don’ts Of Working Out With Back Pain
Depending on the severity of your back pain, it doesn’t always mean that you need to stop working out completely until the issue is 100% resolved. Some exercises are kinder to your body than others, allowing you to get in a great workout while still protecting your existing pain from getting worse. It’s good to be aware of what activities are relatively safe and which ones you should avoid.
Activities That Are Kind To Your Back
Several activities that are particularly kind to your back while also offering great workouts are swimming, walking, and hiking. Swimming is both an incredibly therapeutic tool and a powerhouse aerobic workout as well. Not only is it completely non-weight bearing, but the water itself can be very healing for sore, tight muscles. Of course, the intensity is up to you. Try using different strokes or a kickboard to keep things interesting. Plus, during warm weather months, finding an outdoor pool to soak up a little sun in the process never hurts.
Walking and hiking are also great modes of low-impact aerobic exercise that get you outside and connect with others— recruit a friend to share your excursion! Again, you have complete control over how taxing you to make these activities and can build your stamina over time. Practice good, tall posture while you walk or hike, and engage your core while doing so. The time spent on your legs will add up quicker than you may think!
Of course, use pain as a guide – if a particular movement causes your pain to flare up significantly, it’s best to back off of this exercise for a bit and shift to other, less risky movements.
Mobility Work To Support Your Back
Many back pain patients find relief by doing basic, daily mobility work from home. Just a handful of minutes at the beginning and end of the day could make a significant— and long-term— difference for your back.
Try beginning your day with some light stretching. For example, while in an upright seated position, extend one arm over your head and lean to the opposite side until you feel a gentle stretch. Return to your center, and repeat on the other side. Switch arms and repeat 5-10 times.
Another great light mobility move is best known as the “cat / cow” movement, where you start on your hands and knees. Slowly lower your belly toward the ground, and pause for 1-2 seconds. Reverse the movement arch your back, while still keeping your hands and knees on the ground. Repeat these movements as preferred.
Activities That Can Worsen Back Pain
Perhaps more importantly, you should be aware of what exercises may make your existing back pain worse. As you become more active, pain should not be increasing!
For starters, be wary of biking, as the hunched posture over the handlebars can further aggravate a back that’s already on edge. It can also be tricky to get properly fitted to a bike frame, and an improper fitting could lead to even more strain on your back.
Lifting heavy weights, especially when twisting movements are involved, can also be particularly risky for your back. Though some weight training can be very beneficial for a weight loss program, it needs to be well-educated and ideally supervised by a professional, at least during the beginning stages. Enlisting a personal trainer can help to ensure that you’re performing the movements with the best form possible.
Lastly, though some core work is a good thing – stay away from sit-ups or crunches through this phase. Repetitive movement and bending of the back can make matters much worse; instead, try doing planks for a killer core workout.
How Chiropractic Can Help Back Pain
Another way that you can support your body through activity if you’re managing back pain is to seek out consistent chiropractic care. As you ramp up your activity level, the adjustments of the spine performed by a chiropractor can help realign your body to keep the nervous and immune systems functioning properly while addressing any pre-existing injury to the area.
Not to mention, as you look to move more with less pain, these adjustments could actually help treat the root of your pain. Oftentimes, individuals unknowingly have a misalignment of the spine that can cause a myriad of pain patterns – which chiropractic care and adjustments can help to alleviate.
What it boils down to is this: chiropractic adjustments could help provide the relief needed to keep you consistently active, which is key for your overall health.
If back pain is holding you back from getting the workouts you want, it’s time to get help. Prioritize your health.