If you’ve been bothered by back pain and have been doing research about how to find relief, you’ve probably read about the importance of movement: where physicians once recommended bed rest, and even traction, today’s advice is to stay out of bed and get some exercise. Unfortunately, many people who read this recommendation think that the right thing to do is to return to their normal activities and push through their pain, and that can be a big mistake.
When you’re suffering from back pain (or are vulnerable to it) and you want to get moving, you need to make sure that you’re choosing your form of exercise wisely. Otherwise, you can end up doing more harm than good.
Here are the exercises that you should pointedly avoid in order to avoid hurting yourself further – along with some recommendations for exercises that are generally good choices for back pain sufferers.
- One of the keys to avoiding back pain while exercising is to stay away from exercises that involve bending forward, hunching the back, or rounding the spine while sitting or standing Doing so increases the load on the lumbar vertebrae. Therefore you should skip doing toe touch exercises, and particularly those that involve twisting while bending (as in those that ask you to touch the right toe with the left hand). Likewise, avoid long bike trips and spinning classes where you are specifically instructed to lean forward over the handle bars while peddling.
- Sit-ups and crunches are favorites for those who want to tighten up their abs, but put tremendous pressure on both your upper and lower back. Rather than doing sit-ups, choose planks: they don’t put the same pressure on your spine, and may even help strengthen the core muscles that support the spine.
- Other movements that stress the lumbar region are those that involve hyperextension of the lower back. Double-leg raises that involve lying on your back and lifting both legs off of the floor often lead to the creation of an unnatural and stressful arch in the sacroiliac region.
- Running is one of the most popular exercises around, and it offers a lot of cardiovascular advantages, but it is hard on your joints and your spine. The constant pounding with each step can make existing back pain much worse, particularly for those suffering from degenerative disc disease.
The thing that’s most important to remember is that when you’re experiencing back pain, much of it is attributable to tension and spasm. Therefore, the exercises that you should focus on are those that relieve that pressure and loosen the muscles. Some of the best exercises that can accomplish this goal include swimming, walking, Pilates and core exercises. Never exercise to or past the point of pain.
If exercising doesn’t provide you with relief, it may be time to set up an appointment with our lumbar spine specialist in New Jersey to see what other interventions may help.