Working Out with Lower Back Pain

We’ve all been locked in our homes for far too long. The earliest days, when we thought it was only going to be a few weeks, many of us committed to exercise regimens and pledged to get into “the best shape of our lives.” When the lockdowns and social distancing rules lingered on those commitments morphed into days of binge-watching television shows and eating far too much delivery pizza and brownies.

Now that nearly six months of social distancing have passed, we’re back to exercising, trying to lose the “COVID 19” and finding out that our months of couch potato lethargy have led to more than just weight. Our backs are hurting. Do we keep exercising? And if so, what’s the right exercise to do.

Even without a global pandemic, back pain can put a real crimp in your exercise regimen. Whether you’ve let yourself get soft or exercise is a daily part of your life, a back injury or the experience of lower back pain makes it all too easy to just skip the routine, but that’s not the right response. Instead, you need to shift to exercises that will help strengthen your back and reduce your pain – and avoid the exercises that exacerbate it.

Instead of thinking about exercises as what causes or contributes to discomfort, thinking of it is as a form of therapy can make a big difference in your attitude and adherence to physical activity. Remember that physical activity generally minimizes the pain of arthritis and osteoporosis, as well as what arises from overuse injuries. And weight training exercises can strengthen core muscles and work to prevent injuries from happening in the future.

So what are the right exercises for you to do and which should you avoid?

Anything that strengthens the back muscles without putting pressure on spinal discs is a good idea. That includes weight training, stretching, and low-intensity cardio. Though it’s important to consider any known causes of your pain, how active you were before your pain started and what your symptoms are, if your physician has okayed you pursuing exercise then exercising is far better then sitting around. Here are some suggestions.

  • Core strength and stability exercises including pelvic tilts, bridges, wall sits and abdominal exercises using an exercise ball
  • Strength and weight training exercises that strengthen the shoulders, chest, legs and glutes, either using a weight machine or lightweight hand weights.
  • Body weight exercises including squats, lunges, pushups and planks.
  • Push-ups or modified push-ups from knees
  • Stretches that add to flexibility and relieve tight or spasming muscles, including hamstring stretches and extensions, knee-to-chest stretches, and child pose.
  • Cardio exercises that don’t put too much stress on the body.  Swimming and other aquatic exercises are a particularly good option. Fast walking and elliptical machine workouts are also helpful.

If exercise doesn’t relieve your pain, then contact our spine specialty practice in New Jersey for a consultation.

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