I have a bad back
Around a third of the UK adult population are affected by back pain. It’s natural to feel as though you should rest and not move about much, but exercising is good for your back. However, you should always get approval from your GP before you start making any changes to your exercise plan. The key is knowing which exercises work for you, and which to avoid.
Weak back muscles fail to help the spine carry its load, which puts pressure on spinal discs. Therefore, maintaining strong back and core muscles is essential for preventing back pain. Exercise helps muscles relax and increases blood flow to the area, which may help relieve any back pain.
Even if you’re not planning on doing any exercise, stretching will help reduce tension in muscles supporting the spine and help improve range of motion and overall mobility. Regular stretching can help loosen muscles and get rid of existing back pain, and can help strengthen the back, reducing the chances of dealing with back pain again.
Be careful not to force your body into painful positions as stretching should not hurt. Move into each stretch slowly and avoid bouncing as this can strain your muscles.
Work some walking into your daily routine. People with chronic lower back pain are more likely to have limited functionality. Regardless of the weather, factoring in time to take regular walks of around 30 minutes taken at least 3 times a week can massively help to maintain functional capabilities. Walking helps to release endorphins which are pain inhibiting hormones naturally produced by your body, helpful if you experience chronic back pain.
Many people, experiencing lower back pain swear by swimming or exercising in water. This is because the buoyancy lessens the impact on your joints whilst allowing you to strengthen your core muscles and back. Try not to swim with strokes that arch your back or neck, like butterfly and breaststroke, and opt instead for freestyle or backstroke.
Exercise classes such as Pilates or yoga are great for your back as they combine stretching, strengthening and core abdominal exercising. Make sure to gradually move into each pose, as “dropping” yourself in can cause injury.
Always check with your GP before lifting weights. Avoid exercises that involve extreme or abrupt moves such as dead lifts or clean-and-jerks. Focus on slow, steady resistance training that helps extend your muscles. Use smaller weights and do more repetitions.
Warm up beforehand and don’t forget to stretch afterwards. If you have muscle aches after the workout you can use ice therapy. However, if pain persists, then go to your GP. If you feel any sharp pain while exercising stop immediately.
Although exercising with back pain is beneficial, there are a few movements that should be avoided. High impact activities that put stress on your joints can worsen back pain symptoms. This includes running, jumping, road cycling, step aerobics and basketball. You should avoid heavy weightlifting and lifting objects overhead. Toe-touches, repeatedly bending over, back extensions and sit-ups are also said to worsen back pain.
If you start trying to integrate healthiness into your lifestyle, and try to lose a bit of weight, this should help with your back pain too. This is because extra weight puts strain and pressure on the spine. Eating healthy foods and exercising more will help reduce inflammation, build up muscle strength and help soothe pain.