Let’s talk about exercise and back pain
Last week I had a question asked by one of our patients, Jackie, 57, from Mountain View; it’s one that we get asked often (especially around New Years)
“Is it okay to exercise when my back is hurting? I’ve just got into a good routine sticking to the gym and working out three times a week, and I really don’t want to stop…”
I get the frustration, and I also know that the thought of doing any movement at all when you’re going through some kind of pain might feel a little scary…
You don’t want to run the risk of aggravating it anymore in case it turns into something more serious.
You don’t want to go ‘too hard’ exercising in case you pull another muscle.
And you don’t want to wake up one day to find that you can no longer roll out of bed easily, walk down the street, or even drive because what you did, made it worse.
But don’t let that worry you too much – that’s rarely ever the case.
An aching lower back doesn’t mean you have to be housebound, with heat and ice packs until it magically disappears.
You CAN keep moving! In fact, not moving at all can make your back pain worse!
Here’s Why You Should Exercise and Back Pain
If you suffer from lower back pain that comes and goes, gentle walking; using exercises designed to improve lower back strength and movement added in, will make a big difference.
Walking is a completely natural movement that keeps your joints mobile and muscles working – even those in your feet, hips, and torso – which play an important role in keeping the muscles in your back that hold you upright, and strong.
Stretching combined with walking will improve your back strength, flexibility, and posture, which can help stop back pain from creeping up on you when you least expect it. What’s more, it can also reduce how painful it feels and how much it gets in the way of day-to-day life.
So here’s the important question to answer now that you know it 100% is OK to exercise even if you’ve got a bad back…
What exercise can you actually be doing? Because of course, too much exercise, or exercise that’s strenuous could make it worse or keep it hanging around longer.
Even though there are false beliefs around Yoga, like ‘you’ve got to be flexible’ etc., you can ditch those false beliefs because it’s for anyone.
Let me tell you why – Yoga helps build strength.
Yoga requires you to concentrate on specific muscles in the body when holding poses – many of which improve back strength. When these muscles are stronger your back pain can be greatly reduced and is less likely to affect you as badly as it once did.
As well as strengthening, Yoga relaxes the body and reduces any tension in stress-carrying muscles (a.k.a your back!)
For people with lower back pain, stretching is important. Stretching the muscles in your legs actually helps to increase the range of movement in your hips, taking the stress off your lower back – which in addition increases blood flow, allowing nutrients to flow in, taking care of the muscles in your back.
It’s also one of the best forms of exercise to maintain and improve a healthy posture. Great for your back, stopping back pain in it’s tracks, and that it feels great when you can walk around confident and tall.
So there you have it, gentle walks and yoga.
Both of these will help you gain back the strength in your back, so you can return to doing the exercise you love the most.
FREE GUIDE: “9 Quick And Easy Tips To Relieve Back Pain.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Gladfelter, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Women's Health Physical Therapy Specialist at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness
Kim Gladfelter is a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, educator, author, and co-founder of PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness. She is known as a keen, well-rounded expert of healing through movement and women’s health specialist in the Silicon Valley area.
Kim has helped men and women of all ages to stay active and feel their best. She also writes about managing pain in her health columns, blogs and the local Los Altos Town Crier newspaper as well as reaches out to the local community, support groups, schools, libraries, and sports centers to advise and educate on body awareness and therapeutic exercise.