How to Workout When You Have Back Pain
Sitting all day over-stresses the back, thus causing pain. An active lifestyle on the other hand, can see the high impact of regular intense physical activity trigger back pain. Therefore, whether you are a couch potato, fitness enthusiast, or someone who works behind a desk all day, back pain is almost always inevitable.
Since there is no surefire way of avoiding back pain (as it is also a common effect of aging), the next best option is to exercise the pain away. Exercise helps increase mobility, boosts circulation, and strengthens core muscles, all of which works towards alleviating pain as well as preventing future recurrence of back pain. However, exercising with a bad back is not easy. The pain can make it difficult to exercise while fear of worsening the condition can make you think twice about exercising. Luckily, performing effective workouts without irritating your back further or causing more damage can be done. Below are 3 simple steps that offer you the best and safest way to work around back pain.
Step 1: Determine the Severity of the Pain
Before anything else, it is important that you first determine how severe your back pain is. Exercising is not only possible with mild cases of back pain, but it is actually encouraged as it speeds up recovery. However, if you are dealing with a serious case of back pain, rest or a consultation with your physician would be the best course of action. Signs that your back pain is serious include a tingling or numbing sensation in your back or legs, severe immobility, or a flare up of pain with movement.
Step 2: Figure Out Your Pain Pattern
Once you have determined that your back pain is not severer, the next step should be figuring out the nature of the pain. Non-specific back pain usually presents itself in 2 ways:
- Flexion-based pain: This type of back pain is common among people who spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, in front of the TV, or behind the wheel of a car. Triggered by prolonged rounding of the shoulders, flexion based back pain is as a direct result of disk herniations and bulges at the lower part of the back.
- Extension-based pain: Common among people who spend most of their days on their feet (teachers, athletes, fitness trainers, etc.), extension based pain occurs as a result of keeping the back in an extended state that creates a huge arch. This kind of posture puts a ton of pressure on the joints of the vertebrae resulting in pain.
To determine what category your pain falls under simply stand up straight, bend over to touch your toes, and slowly come back up to the starting point. If you feel more pain bending over, you have flexion-based pain. Alternatively, a shot in pain while you are on your way up means you are extension intolerant.
Step 3: Create A Workout Plan Based On Your Situation
Once you have classified the nature of your back pain, creating an ideal workout plan becomes easy. For flexion-based pain, the right approach is to perform exercise that stretch out the back. This therefore makes exercises such as chin-ups, pullovers, overhead squats, and hip thrusts, the best options for flexion based back pain. Any exercise that puts pressure on the spine or forces the back into a rounded posture (e.g. crunches, weightlifting, bent over rows, and sit-ups) are a huge no-no when you have flexion based back pain.
Extension based back pain in turn can be alleviated with exercises that put the back in its natural alignment. A few good options include deadbugs, lateral lunges/raises, pelvic tilts, side lying lifts, and knee to chest exercise.
Finally, it is also essential that you fit in strengthening exercises into your workouts. The stronger your back and its supportive muscles (abs, glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings) are, the more stress the back can take without succumbing to pain. Go for low impact strengthening workouts such as planks and hamstring stretches that do not put more stress on the back.
How to Stay in Shape When Injured
For a fitness fanatic, injury can be quite frustrating. Pushing through the pain and continuing to train can lead to terrible consequences that may be impossible to undo. Staying off physical activity and giving an injury the time it needs to heal can result in the gradual decline of fitness. So, what do you do when you find yourself in this kind of conundrum? Luckily, there is an attainable healthy balance that allows you to maintain your level of fitness and give the injured body part the rest it needs to fully recover. So, if you wondering how to stay in shape when injured, all you need to do is put the following tips into action.
Injury does not have to be the end of all physical activity. With a little creativity, you should be able to get some workouts done without further compromising your body. The key is to go for exercises that do not require the use of the injured body part. For instance, someone nursing a leg or foot injury can maintain fitness with exercises such as seated overhead press, crunches, chest press, pull-ups, and Pilates. Alternatively, walking, stair climbing, elliptical training, and any routine that specifically targets the lower body, would make safe workouts for someone dealing with upper body injuries within the arm, neck, or shoulder.
Avoid Rushing Your Recovery
As frustrating as a workout injury can be, rushing things will only work to worsen the situation. A little bit of active recovery is great for preventing your fitness progress from dwindling and speeding up healing. However, forcing the injured body part to work before it’s properly rested could aggravate the injury and possibly cause permanent damage. So, keep in mind that you only get one shot to heal and therefore need to do it right. Listen to the advice of your trainer or doctor and rest the injured body part for as long as recommended. Once you are ready for rehabilitative exercises, start small and gradually return to your normal workout practices.
Make Water Your Ally
Water is very forgiving to hurt muscles and joints yet provides great low impact resistance that delivers intense workouts. It is therefore a great ally when it comes to staying fit while nursing an injury. What’s more, exercising in water builds cardiovascular fitness, stamina, flexibility, and strength, while helping you burn more fat. Therefore, you can actually become fitter than you were before the injury with water exercises.
Deep-water running is one of the best aqua aerobic workouts as it works both your cardiovascular system as well as the entire body (arms, trunks, and legs). Regular deep water running alone can be enough to ensure you stay fit while recovering from injury. Other great water exercises include pool planks, standing knee lifts, arm raises, and lunges.
Develop Other Healthy Habits
When dealing with a bad injury that restricts almost all forms of physical activity, focusing on other healthy habits can be an effective way of ensuring your level of fitness does not suffer too much. Drink more water, get enough sleep at night, cut down on your carbs and fat intake, sneak in more vegetables into your meals, or try meditation. Developing healthy habits can help prevent weight gain, boost recovery, and improve your mental health.
When it comes to workout injuries, there are no shortcuts to recovery. However, that does not mean that you will be resigned to sit back and watch as the injury sabotages your fitness. With the tips discussed here, you will be able to recover well, prevent further damage, and even come out in great shape to resume normal workout practices after recovering.