Lifting Weights May Help
Done properly, lifting weights doesn’t usually hurt your back. In fact, it may help relieve chronic back pain. But when you have acute back pain, putting extra stress on back muscles and ligaments could raise risk of further injury. Ask your doctor whether you should lift weights, and which exercises to avoid.
How To Do The Straight
Lumbar spine and hamstring stretching can relieve and prevent lower back pain, so it’s the kind of practice that can help ease any flare-ups. Now, every morning, I do a straight-leg hamstring stretch with a slight modification.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Place your right foot about 18 inches in front of the other. Keep your toes and feet pointing forwards and distanced at a comfortable width.
2. Lean forward at the hips and reach your arms out in front of you. Make sure you don’t round your lower back.
3. Hold for about 20 to 30 seconds.
4. For the second part of this stretch, push your hips forward as you extend backwards, arching the lower back and keeping your hands at your sides.
5. Hold that position, stretching the hip flexor of the trailing leg, for 20 to 30 seconds.
6. Repeat both parts of the stretch on the other side with your left leg in front.
Emily Scott, a physical therapist, recommends this stretch for people with sitting jobs. “Technology has made us very sedentary,” she says. “Sitting makes up most of our days now, and our hip flexors are taking most of the toll.”
So get ahead of the pain: Do the straight-leg hamstring stretch before you even sit down at your desk.
Exercises For Lower Back Pain
The source of lower back pain can be hard to trace. Sometimes its a sudden, jarring injury. Other times its due to long-term over- or underuse.
Often the simple act of sitting is to blame for lower back pain, particularly if it emanates from around L1-L5, the vertebrae between your rib cage and your pelvis.
Unfortunately, strength and flexibility only do so much to prevent it.
There are people who can twist themselves into a pretzel who have back pain because they lack endurance, says neurophysiologist Chad Waterbury, author of Huge In a Hurry. And there are people who are very strong who get back pain because they lack mobility, especially in the hamstrings, core, glutes, and hip muscles.
The key to preventing lower back pain, says Waterbury, is building a combination of moves that improve your mobility and endurance so you can get some relief from the lower back pain you have and avoid more of it in the future.
Thats exactly what the moves below broken into three escalating levels of intensity are designed to do.
A few quick caveats: If your pain is intense , get cleared by a doctor before doing any type of exercisethese moves included.
If given the OK, avoid anything that causes or exacerbates pain in your lower back. This includes twisting or bending forcefully and sitting for hours on end.
If you can, get up from your chair every 20 minutes, or better still, get a desk with a stand-up option.
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Start Treating Your Sciatica And Back Pain
If you are referred to a physical therapist for your back pain, he or she will likely teach you how to attain and maintain proper posture. The slouch overcorrect procedure is a simple way to teach yourself the posture that is required to maintain appropriate spinal alignment.
Your physical therapist may also use therapeutic modalities to help decrease your pain. While these may feel good, caution should be used many of these treatments have not been proven to effectively decrease pain-and keep it away.
Physical therapists trained in the McKenzie Method are specialists when it comes to treating people with low back and neck pain. If you can find a therapist certified in the McKenzie Method, he or she will likely perform a thorough assessment of your problem and teach you self-care exercises that can quickly abolish your pain and help you return to your previous level of function.
This is an exercise program commonly used to treat low back pain and sciatica, or leg pain that is coming from your back. They are listed as a progression. Start with exercise number one, and progress as needed through the exercises. You may not need to perform all of the exercises, but if the first one fails to provide you with adequate relief from your pain, try the second one, and so on.
Try: Some Pilates Moves
Pilates combines stretching, strengthening, and core abdominal exercises. Under the instruction of an experienced teacher, it may help some people with back pain. Be sure to tell your teacher about your back pain, because you may need to skip some moves. For further reading, here are more back exercises for women.
Stop What’s Making Things Worse
If this list seems long, it’s because when you’re injured, everything seems to mysteriously make it worse. But back pain requires a two-pronged approach: cutting out what’s aggravating pain and strengthening what’s weak. Here are the most common culprits to watch out for.
Overrelying on treatment: Chiropractors and physical therapists can help you in the short term, but as a Doctor of Physical Therapy myself, I can tell you that once you’re out of immediate, severe pain, it’s up to you to take control of your situation. You are not your MRI!
Inactivity: If you’re injured, you probably don’t want to exercise or lift again. And studies have shown that after back injuries, fear of movement can be especially crippling. But halting all training only makes things worse. Find what you can do without pain, and get back in the gym as soon as possible!
Living without bracing: Mastering the skill of abdominal bracing is essential for your spinal health and strength. And no, crunches and sit-ups aren’t going to teach this!
Here’s your mental checklist to memorize for safe, strong lifting:
Stretching your lower back: That bent-backed, toe-touching stretch you’re praying will get you out of pain might be putting you deeper in it. As I explain in the article, “3 Fixes for Mysterious Knee, Back, and Shoulder Pain,” what you need more than more “mobility” is core stability. Proper strength training, not stretching, is your answer.
What To Do With Lower Back Pain
Somewhere between total bed rest and exercising through lower back pain is a middle ground, or a sweet spot like the one Goldilocks aimed to find. If there are red flags of pain, curtail what you are doing. Your goal should be to work around the pain, not through it. Find other ways to stay active that dont make the pain worse or might cause further injury.
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Strengthen Or Train Your Lower Back Muscles
Your Lumbar region is located around the lower half of your torso and contains your lower back muscles and abdominal muscles. This region carries most of your bodyweight. Its because of this that lower back pain is very common and why lower back muscle strengthening is important.
Injury prevention is the most obvious advantage of lower back strengthening. Lower back pain can occur from a sedentary lifestyle, bad posture or an active lifestyle. Gym, work and sports can also lead to lower back pain when the muscles are underdeveloped.
Even easy exercises like hiking, running or a basic ab routine can lead to pain in the lower back ignoring the lower back while over developing the abs can cause injury. When you strengthen your lower back, it can help improve sport and gym performance.
It’s Time To Get Your Life Back
If there’s an upside to lower back pain, it’s that the things that fix it are all things that will help you be stronger and more capable overall. It’s time to get out of the mindset of being limited and start chasing your athletic and physique goals fearlessly!
Want to get proactive about ridding your life of pain? Use the other tools in the Unstoppable series.
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Flexibility For Range Of Motion
Theres this misconception that being really flexible will help prevent back pain. Thats not really the case. Rather, back pain is more likely when regular mobility and range of motion have been reduced. The likely causes include muscle imbalances, previous injuries, or other ailments.
Flexibility training is all about attaining and maintaining a normal range of motion that allows for smooth, easy movements. Flexibility routines that focus on working on the appropriate range of motion at every major joint are your best bet.
This is likely why theres some evidence, including a 2017 study in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, that yoga routines can help with back-related function and pain reduction when performed consistently over time.
To get started with flexibility training, consider adding a dynamic warm-up to the start of your strength training routine . You can start with a 10- to 20-minute yoga routine at least two to three times a week. Something as simple as a beginners sun salutation sequence will help you move through a range of motion at your major joints. This will simultaneously help with gradually increasing your flexibility to an ideal level for you.
How To Train Through Back Pain And Be Unstoppable
Lower back pain doesn’t have to be a life sentence. These are the best exercises for lower back pain, and the best training techniques to keep from making things worse.
Back pain is one of those unfortunate situations where injury isn’t the exception, it’s the norm. Experts estimate that over 80 percent of people will experience a bout of severe lower back pain in their lifetime, and it’s one of the top reasons that people miss workâand workouts.
If that wasn’t bad enough, once you experience a lower back injury, you’re six times more likely to injure it again in the next 12 months. Unfortunately, active people are just as likely, if not more so, to experience lower back pain than the sedentary population.
You don’t need a pity party, you need a strategy. This is your three-step plan to rid yourself of back pain and rebuild your foundation of strength to keep it from coming back.
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What To Do About Lower Back Pain
Most of the time lower back pain is a result of daily stress and weak muscles. Sometimes it is a spasm caused by an accident or just putting on your socks in the morning.
You might start with some tried and true home remedies like ice, massage, or over the counter medications, then modify your exercise routine and lower the intensity of your work out. Pay careful attention to the pain when it happens, and what you are doing. If the pain gets worse or doesnt go away within 72 hours, a trip to see the providers at Spine & Scoliosis Specialists may be in order.
If this is indeed a chronic issue, you may already have a physical therapist you can turn to for help. The worst thing you can do is to ignore it or think you can work it out.
Move To Tolerance Its Not No Pain No Gain
That is not to say we just push through pain. The instruction to patients is to move to tolerance. Some symptoms are OK, and even expected in the initial stages. But working into these symptoms can help reduce pain and swelling. Explaining to patients that symptoms here are more about tissue swelling and the accumulation of chemicals at the site of injury, and that movement helps push and flush these chemicals out of the area is powerful messaging here.
Heres a detailed description of how to perform the specific exercises.
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Four Exercises To Avoid If You Have Back Pain And What To Do Instead
Physical activity is a great way to prevent and treat back pain but did you know that some exercises can do more harm than good?
To avoid putting too much strain on the joints, ligaments, and muscles in your back, here is a list of exercises to avoid, as well as some alternatives. Talk to your chiropractor to determine which exercises are right for you.
Supine Figure 4 Stretch
This classic yoga pose helps open up the hips as much as it is good for massaging your low back. “This pose stretches the outer glutes, as well as your piriformis, both of which can contribute to a tight lower back,” says Hilary Wright, Y7 instructor and director of continuing education.
How to do a supine figure 4 stretch: Lie on your back on a yoga mat with both knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Lift your right leg, flex your right foot and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. If this is enough stay here, or draw your left knee in and hold behind your left thigh to increase the intensity. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths and then switch to the other side.
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Set A Clear Exercise Routine
Once your back injury is to the point where you can work it out a bit harder, set the intention for the type of exercise you should do.
For instance, assess your pain level and decide if you can stick with the usual activity or if youd be better off scaling it down a bit by performing an easier activity for example, you may choose aquatic exercises or light stretching over running or lifting weights.
Performing Stretches And Exercises With Acute Back Pain
Let’s face it, tight muscles likely contribute greatly to your neck and/or back pain. They may even be the cause of your long-term problem entirely. If you’ve seen a physical therapist for your spine, chances are she has given you some back exercises to do.
But what if you’re experiencing an acute back injury or your old injury is acting up? Should you stretch? Should you do back injury exercises at all?
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Your Back Pain Travel Rules
Even if youve never had general back pain, theres a good chance youve experienced slight pangs of it when you travel. Why? Because everything about long-distance travel in planes, trains, and even cars seems designed to aggravate our lumbar area.
The seats in airplanes, cars, and trains simply arent designed to be comfortable, period, so theyre even worse for you when youre struggling with back pain. Hamstrings and hip flexors stiffen, making for hours of pain, and you feel it when you try to get out of that seat after the trip.
To avoid all that, keep these tips in mind when you hit the road.
One key to both avoiding and alleviating back pain: Move. The more you move around, the better. Dr. John J. Michalisin Jr., M.D., a clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the NYU School of Medicine recommends that you try to move around and change positions frequently.
So every 30 minutes, get up. Set an alarm to make sure you do it when you fly or take the train. You only need to do it for 60 seconds, but stand up, stretch your arms overhead, and dethaw your body so it doesnt grow frozen and tight in bad positions. Youll commonly get up from your seat with tight pecs from hunching slightly, and tight hip flexors from having your legs bent for so long.
Ponder Your Sitting Posture
Pain Relief: Try Partial Crunches
Crunches are great for your back. One of the classic core-strengthening workouts is the partial stomach crunch. Partial crunches build strength in both your lower back and related stomach muscles, making this an ideal exercise for people with spondylosis.
Here’s how to get the most out of partial crunches:
- Lie back, and keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent.
- With your hands behind your head or with arms crossed around your chest, raise your shoulders from the floor. Make sure to keep your stomach muscles tight.
- Breath out while raising your shoulders. Avoid leading with your elbows .
- Hold for one second. Next, lower yourself back down to the floor in a controlled manner.
- Repeat with between eight and 12 repetitions.Remember to follow proper form, which prevents excessive spine stress. Keep your feet, tailbone, and lower back against the floor throughout the exercise.
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Make Intelligent Movement Substitutions
These two movement pyramids show progressions of the most common back-aggravating exercises. The bottom movement is the most approachable and the top is the most technical or difficult.
Your objective: Figure out the most advanced variation you can perform without pain. Then, use that variation in your training.
For example, if a workout you’re doing calls for 3 sets of 10 on barbell back squats, but goblet squats are the most difficult variation you can handle without pain, that’s fine. Rock those goblet squats.
To be clear, the top of the pyramid does not have to be the goal! You can do single-leg deadlifts and front-loaded squats for years.
For more in-depth training guidance on how to use these pyramids, and to see demonstrations of each movement, check out Unstoppable in BodyFit.
Try Instead: Partial Crunches
Partial crunches are better at isolating your abdominal muscles without risking injury to the low back. Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put your hands behind your neck, tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor, being careful not to use your arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold, and slowly lower your shoulders back down. Repeat 15 times, or as recommended by your exercise plan. It might be helpful to have your hands placed under your low back to maintain the lumbar curve and support the pelvis.
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