Provided By: Everyday Health
If you think treating a backache means going to bed or taking it easy, you couldn’t be more wrong. According to the Mayo Clinic, most acute back pain resolves within a few weeks with home treatment, and bed rest is not recommended.
Exercise is one of the best ways to get rid of back pain and keep it from returning. “There is an exercise for almost anyone with back pain. We even start people on exercise the day after back surgery,” says Maria Mepham, a physical therapist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. But there are some types of workouts for bad back pain that are more beneficial than others.
Whether from an injury or degenerative disease (such as osteoarthritis), most cases of back pain can be reduced with regular exercise and tailored workouts. Stretching, strengthening, and conditioning exercises can result in stronger muscles that support the spine and your body’s weight. When your body’s skeleton is supported, you are less likely to suffer injury and back pain.
Studies confirm that when back pain sufferers start a regular exercise program, including resistance exercise or strength training, they are more likely to have less pain, and be able to return to work and be active again.
Before you get started — check with your doctor or therapist — if you haven’t exercised much in the past, start slowly and work your way up gradually. If you have pain or low back pain after working out stop and call your doctor.
One of the worst mistakes is trying to do too much too soon. Always leave time for warm-up and cool-down before and after workouts for back pain. “Let your doctor or therapist know if any exercise makes your back pain worse,” says Mepham.
The good news is that back pain can be prevented. Improper body mechanics such as incorrect posture or lifting heavy objects often leads to back pain. Knowing this, be aware of how you sit, lift, bend, twist and walk. Make sure your workplace uses ergonomically correct furniture, and ask for help if you need to move a heavy object.
You need to take care of the core muscles that support your spine. There are many workouts for back pain that do this, and your doctor or therapist should be able to give you specific advice and training for your unique back pain condition.
“A good example of a safe strengthening exercise is the pelvic tilt,” says Mepham. To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your stomach muscles until you can press the small of your back flat against the floor. Hold the press for about five seconds and repeat up to 10 times.
“Keeping your core muscles limber is as important as keeping them strong,” says Mepham. “Two good stretching exercises are the knee-to-chest and the hamstring stretch.”
To do the knee-to-chest, lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee up to your chest and use your hands to pull the knee close while flattening out your back; then repeat with the other knee. The hamstring stretch is done from the same starting position. Pick up one leg with both hands placed behind your knee and then straighten your lower leg. These stretches should be held for about 20 seconds and repeated five times. Be sure to warm up before you stretch.
An aerobic exercise is any exercise that uses the big muscles of your body in a rhythmic and repetitive way. Aerobic exercise can get blood flowing to your back muscles, which can really help them recover from injury and increase their strength. Walking is a good low-impact aerobics choice for your back, but swimming may be an even better workout for back pain if you get backaches.
“Swimming could be the best low-impact aerobics back pain exercise,” says Mepham. “Water provides both support and resistance. Almost any workout for back pain done in the water is beneficial and safe for back pain.”
While low-impact aerobics may help those with back pain, any type of high-impact aerobic exercise requires caution. Examples of high-impact aerobics include jogging or running (especially on a hard surface), tennis, some types of dance, and any other exercise that jars or twists the spine.
If you can’t maintain your spine in a neutral position during workouts for back pain, you may not be able to protect your back and prevent pain. Also avoid any contact sports or sports like volleyball, soccer, snowboarding, and trampoline that put too much strain on your back, leading to backache or lower back pain after workouts.
“Two all-around good workouts for back pain are yoga and working with an exercise ball,” says Mepham. Yoga is great because, if your teacher knows your limitations, it can be adapted safely for most people with back pain. “Few exercises combine flexibility and strength as well as yoga,” says Mepham.
An exercise ball, also known as a Swiss ball, is a large, soft, air-filled ball that can be used for stretching and strengthening. You will need some training on how to use it, Mepham says, but “there are hundreds of great exercises that can be done with an exercise ball.” Check with your physical therapist.