Let's talk about exercise and back pain…
Last week I had a question asked by one of our patients, Jackie, 58, from Carmel
And it’s one that we get asked often (especially since the New Years gym rush!)
“Is it ok 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 any more in case it turns into something more serious.
You don’t want to go ‘too hard’ in the gym 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 road, 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’ve got 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!
If you suffer from lower back pain that comes and goes, gentle walking with 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, lets, hips and torso – which play an important role in keeping the muscles in your back that hold you up right, strong.
Stretching combined with walking will improve your backs strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn, 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’s false beliefs around Yoga, like ‘you’ve got to be flexible’ etc., etc., etc… you can ditch those false beliefs behind 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 bad 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 help to increase 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 once 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 add to 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 your strength in your back, so you can return to doing the exercise you love the most.
Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach