When you’re experiencing back pain, there’s nothing wrong with continuing some sort of exercise routine. In fact, exercise in general is encouraged because it helps increase strength and flexibility to support the back and promote healing. However, exercising in the wrong way can actually exacerbate your back pain and prolong your misery.
For maximum benefit and protection, you should always check with your spine doctor before beginning (or continuing) any type of exercise program with a back injury. For now, let’s look at 8 common exercise mistakes that could make your back pain worse.
1. Failing to warm up before a workout
Not only can skipping the warm-up make your back pain worse — it can actually cause new injuries. Muscles that aren’t properly warmed up or that have been dormant tend to be stiff and inflexible, causing them to strain and tear when subjected to sudden strenuous tasks. Before any workout, always take a few minutes to do some gentle, low-impact warm-up exercises. (NOTE: Warm-ups are not stretches — we’ll get to those in a moment.) These exercises will get the blood flowing to your muscles and increase your respiration to enrich the blood with oxygen. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about the best warm-ups for your situation.
2. Overdoing stretches before the workout
Many people equate warm-ups with stretches. In fact, stretches don’t do much to prevent injury, and when they’re done the wrong way, they can cause injury. If you stretch before your workout, do these exercises gently and gradually after doing warm-ups as mentioned above. Otherwise, you could just be making a bad situation worse.
3. Skipping the stretches after your workout
You should always stretch after exercising. Stretching after a workout can help prevent muscle soreness and fatigue due to a buildup of lactic acid in the muscles. Plus, post-workout stretches are less likely to cause or aggravate injuries because the muscles are already pliable.
4. Ignoring Your Core
Your core muscles (i.e., back muscles, abs and glutes) serve to support the spine. If these muscles aren’t worked consistently, they don’t provide enough support, resulting in more back pain. Any exercise plan should include movements to build strength and flexibility in these muscle groups.
5. Not Learning Proper Form
This principle holds true with any exercise you undertake: If you practice bad posture and form, or do the exercise incorrectly, you can aggravate existing injuries or cause new ones. Whatever workout plan you’re on, make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly. If in doubt, talk to a personal trainer or physical therapist.
6. Repetitive Stresses
Many physical injuries don’t occur suddenly, but rather over time due to the same motions performed over and over again. (Tennis elbow is one example.) If you do the same exercises the same way every single time, or you only focus on one muscle group over the others, you create an imbalance that can cause gradual tearing and inflammation. Instead, try to develop a balanced workout plan that changes up your movements from time to time and works on multiple muscle groups.
7. Doing Exercises That Twist the Spine
Yoga can be very helpful to build strength and flexibility, but some movements like spinal twists and forward folds can aggravate back injuries. Be careful when doing these types of exercises; listen to your body and avoid movements that don’t “feel” right. Ask your instructor to provide modifications to certain poses that put less stress on the spice. If necessary, skip the yoga and do some other type of workout until your back heals.
8. Being Overly Ambitious
One common misconception is that exercising harder brings quicker results — and even though we may consciously understand this isn’t true with regard to healing back pain, our subconscious might default this direction. For example, we might work out longer than we should or lift weights that are too heavy or push ourselves further when our body gives us clear indication to take it easy) Don’t make things worse by being too ambitious or impatient. The key to healthy exercise is not intensity, but consistency. Work out wisely, and work out regularly, and you’ll go much farther toward alleviating the pain.
To learn more about exercising with back pain and how to avoid exacerbating the issue, call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center at 404-256-2633.