Should I Exercise With Back Pain?
Weight Management

Should I Exercise With Back Pain?

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18 September 2015


People with chronic back pain tend to avoid exercise as they believe that it will worsen theircondition. Ironically, and in contrast to conventional wisdom, avoiding exercise could do the complete opposite.

Rather than from accidents, one of the most common reasons that people get back pain is due to an inactive, sedentary lifestyle. They simply sit at their desk, slouched over their computers for too long, which then leads to weak core muscles and can result in back pain. 

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So what should you do if you are experiencing back pain?

1. Get a proper diagnosis

The first thing that you need to do is identify the underlying cause as your rehabilitation programme will depend on the level of pain and diagnosis. For example, lower back pain could be caused by tight hamstrings which would require actions to increase flexibility. On the other hand, compressed discs in the lumbar, which can occur from sitting too long, may require you to strengthen your core muscles to improve posture.

2. Engage a professional

Find a physical therapist or personal trainer (who is experienced in dealing with rehabilitation) to develop a programme that is customised to your specific condition. Before designing your programme, a good trainer will conduct a postural assessment. This will help to identify postural imbalances which can often trigger pain in the back as well as other parts of the body such as the knees, hips and shoulders.

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3. Stretch

Stretching is something that everyone can benefit from, whether you suffer from aches and pains or not. In particular, you should target the soft tissues - the muscles, ligaments and tendons - in the back, legs, buttock and around the spine.

The spinal column and its contiguous muscles, ligaments, and tendons were all designed to move, so limiting movement can make back pain worse. Patients with ongoing back pain may find it takes weeks or even months of stretching and other back exercises to mobilise the spine and soft tissues. However, increasing motion for an extended period of time will usually result in meaningful and sustained relief of back pain.

4. Get back into strength training

Back pain doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to stop lifting weights either. To give your body the support it needs, you need to strengthen the muscles of the weakened areas as well as those surrounding it. For best results, use a combination of both machine and free weights. Use more machines at the start of your programme and increase the amount of free weights that you use as you gain more strength. While machines limit the body’s natural movements (you either sit or lean on them), they are beneficial when you are starting out as they help to guide your movement.

5. Keep on doing cardio

Engaging in aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate for a sustained period of time is beneficial for alleviating back problems. The reason that it works so well is because it forces blood and nutrients to flow to your back structures. This supports healing and can decrease the stiffness in your back and joints which cause back pain. To get started with cardio exercise, consider walking, cycling on a stationary bike, working out on an elliptical trainer or water therapy.


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