How Does Aerobic Exercise Lessen Back Pain?
Whether mild or severe, back pain can make it difficult to perform everyday normal activities. For this reason, most people suffering from back pain tend to avoid all physical activities until the pain passes. That, however, is the last thing you want to do to your back as it tends to worsen the condition. In fact, the best way to overcome back pain is to get moving. This is why doctors often recommend aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, etc. for people with back pain.
In most cases, health experts recommend strength training routines to combat back pain related problems. The reason for this is because a stronger back is less susceptible to aches and injuries.
So, how does aerobic exercise Lessen back pain? Well, aerobic exercises have been shown to be quite effective at alleviating back pain as well as preventing future recurrence of the condition. Below is a look at the various ways in which aerobics help with back pain.
When done regularly and in a controlled manner, aerobic exercise increases flow of blood and nutrients to back structures (soft tissues, discs, ligaments, muscles, and joints). This distribution of nutrients speeds up the back’s healing process thereby causing a reduction of pain.
An increase in nutrients also helps to decrease stiffness in the back and joints. This consequently alleviates back pain and minimizes recurrence of pain since stiffness is known to trigger pain as well as aggravate an already existing condition of back pain.
Like any form of exercise, aerobic exercises result in an increased production of endorphins – the body’s own natural painkiller. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain and set off a chain of reactions that reduce our perception of pain. Therefore, if you are suffering from back pain, aerobic exercise will do you a lot of good. With regular aerobic exercise comes a frequent release of endorphins, which work to reduce pain symptoms.
Strengthens Spine and Back Muscles
Unless the direct result of a blow to the back or genetic spine disorders, back pain is usually caused by straining or overusing of the spine and back muscles. Aerobic exercises strengthen both the muscles and bones of the spine. This in turn helps to reduce severity of pain as well as prevent future back problems. As an added bonus, strengthening of the spine and back muscles helps alleviate other back pain symptoms including decreased flexibility, reduced range of motion, and affected posture problems such as the inability to stand straight.
With regular aerobic exercise, the muscles in the feet, legs, hips, and abdomen also get stronger allowing them to take off some of the strain from the back. With the back under decreased stress, pain reduces significantly and the healing process speeds up.
Helps Control Weight
Aerobic exercise whether in the form of a 30-minute walk or 10 laps in the pool facilitate weight loss if done often enough and accompanied with a weight-loss friendly diet. Since being overweight places increased strain on spine structures and joints, burning excess fat takes away some of the strain thereby lessening pain.
While aerobic exercise helps to lessen back pain, overdoing it can lead to further damage of your back structures. Therefore, start slowly and work your way up gradually as pain and stiffness decrease. Also, make sure to balance out your workouts to include stretching, strengthening, and low-impact aerobic conditioning. This helps to make workouts more effective.
Why Cardio Exercise Is Important for Treating Back Pain
It may sound counter-intuitive, but doing cardio exercises can help treat back pain. If you have an injured back, the part of the healing process requires getting nutrient-laden, oxygen-filled blood to the affected area. And while blood flows normally to these areas when not exercising, the amount increases when the heart rate is elevated, like it is when doing cardio training.
Your heart beats faster, your breathing rate quickens and as a result, you are passing more blood through a given area in the same amount of time. And getting oxygen and nutrients to an injured back area is only half of the story. On the way through, blood also removes cell waste and carbon dioxide. Wastes are filtered out of the blood via the kidneys and liver, carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen in the lungs, and the process starts all over again.
But this type of exercising does a couple of other important things. It helps you lose weight and releases a natural, albeit temporary, painkiller. Not being overweight is less destructive on the body’s skeletal system. For example, for each pound lost, it takes five pounds of stress off of your knees. The results are similar for the back. The more weight bearing down, the more pressure on the discs in the back, which can then rupture or herniate from the pressure.
Most people experience a “runner’s high” after doing 30 to 40 minutes of cardio exercising. While most just experience a mood improvement, those suffering from back pain can notice some relief from their back pain due to the release of endorphins, a natural pain killer. Granted the subsiding of pain only lasts a few hours, but it less pain is always appreciated.
Types of Cardio Exercise
With a back injury, you’ll want to avoid certain types of exercises. For example, running will probably be out, but you may be able to walk. Typically, it is gentle on the back; engaging on a regular basis can help strengthen back muscles.
There are two types of stationary bikes: upright and recumbent. Generally riding recumbent is the best when exercising with a back injury. But try both and see which one your back likes the most.
Riding an elliptical is easy on an injured back because it is low to no impact. Motion is in an elliptical or oval pattern, instead of up and down, so there isn’t the stopping and changing directions as there is with running.
Because of the weightlessness effect, exercising in a pool is not only great for a back injury, but a great workout in general because you are fighting against the resistance of water, thus burning a lot of calories. By focusing on doing strengthening and stretching exercises, the affected areas will get stronger and heal quicker.
Having an injured back doesn’t mean you have to put your workouts on hold. It just means you may have to make some adjustments to your exercise routines while healing.