How to Safely Exercise with Back Pain

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Whether your back pain is experienced occasionally, chronic in nature, or triggered by certain movements, it can be difficult to get regular exercise if you’re concerned about being distracted with some type of discomfort. Not getting any exercise at all, however, can also contribute to back pain as spine-supporting muscles become weak. Consider the following tips to find a happy medium that will strengthen your spine without aggravating your back pain.

Do a Proper Warm-Up

Before you do any exercise, avoid stressing your back-supporting muscles by doing a proper warm-up. Doing so will help maintain range of motion and flexibility as you go through your various routines. A basic warm-up before you exercise may involve:

  • Alternating leg lifts
  • Side-to-side rotations with gentle arm stretches
  • Shoulder rotations
  • Hamstring stretches

Do Exercises That Support Your Spine

Avoid any exercises that place extra pressure your spine. Instead, opt for safe exercises that support your spine. Pelvic tilts are an example of an exercise that can strengthen core muscles without excessively stressing your spine since you will be pressing your back against the floor.

Try Controlled-Movement Exercises

Enjoy the many benefits of regular movements that can increase circulation and strengthen muscles without the risk of excessive strain with exercises like yoga and Pilates that involve controlled movements. Yoga, in particular, can also help control back pain by encouraging relaxation and improving circulation.

Avoid High-Impact Aerobics

Activities like jogging can be jarring to your spine. If you do prefer to jog, maintain a neutral spine position as much as possible. Bike riding can be fine as long as you stay on surfaces that are as flat and smooth as possible and adjust the handlebars and seat height so you’re not bending forward excessively. If you find cycling on paved surfaces too painful, consider using a stationary bike instead.

Consider Water-Based Exercise

If you have existing back pain and it’s difficult for you to make certain movements, consider water-based exercises or activities. The natural buoyancy of water takes pressure off of the spine, joints, discs, and nearby muscle groups that support the vertebrae. Many water aerobics classes take place in heated pools that can be provide additional therapeutic benefits. It can be safe to swim with back pain as long as you avoid strokes that stretch or arch the spine like the butterfly and breaststroke.

Get more from your exercise efforts by also paying attention to the foods you eat, maintaining a healthy weight, watching your posture while sitting and standing, and sticking to a regular sleep schedule to give your spine and its tissues time to naturally heal. If you experience any unusual pain or discomfort during or after any exercise efforts, you may be referred to an orthopedic surgeon to determine if there is a specific issue with your spine that requires attention.