One of the most common assumptions made by people suffering from back pain is that they have to stop exercising.
Whether you’re a runner, a yoga enthusiast, a gym rat, or just love your Zumba class, the truth is that staying away from exercise could actually end up working against your recuperation: stretching and strengthening are one of the best ways to counter back pain – but what about weight lifting?
Is weight lifting exercise that you need to sacrifice in the face of pain?
Though conventional wisdom and the little voice in your head may tell you that lifting heavy things and putting them down is the absolute wrong thing for your back, the truth is that — when done the right way — lifting weights can actually be beneficial for back pain. Here’s what you need to know.
There have been hundreds of studies done on the impact of weightlifting on lower back pain and other conditions affecting the back and spine, and a team of researchers from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada evaluated all of them to determine whether weightlifting was a safe exercise for back pain sufferers to pursue or not.
What they learned is that though weight lifting should be avoided in the first few days when pain arises – and should also be skipped in the first day or two after treatment – overall, the negative impacts of weightlifting on back pain are negligent. They did note that sciatica is an exception to this rule: when people are treated for sciatica, weightlifting should be avoided for as long as a year.
One particularly interesting study published in BMJ Open Sport & Medicine not only determined that lifting free weights didn’t hurt the back – it actually determined that those who participated in a course of free weight resistance training over a 16-week period experienced an improvement in their level of “pain, disability and quality of life,” as well as in their endurance and strength.
Perhaps most important of all, a study done at Sweden’s Luleå University of Technology looked at the impact of not exercising, focusing on leg exercises and focusing on upper body work to see what the long-term benefits were of each.
What the researchers found was that there was little difference between participating regularly in upper and lower body workouts, there was a significant difference in the incidence of pain and disability between those who didn’t exercise at all and those who participated in resistance training on a regular basis.
As is always the case, you should not engage in an exercise routine without first consulting your physician. To speak with our lumbar and cervical spine specialist to determine what the best exercise program is for your particular situation, contact us today to set up an appointment.