The Best Exercises for Back Pain – and What’s Off-Limits

The Best Exercises for Back Pain – and What’s Off-Limits

Dealing with chronic back pain is not easy. It is especially difficult if you’re used to being active. Pain can slow you down and, counterintuitively, inactivity can make back pain worse. If you have issues with back pain, continuing to move is often a good way to alleviate pain over time, but it must be done correctly to prevent further injury.

Specific exercises and help from experts can help you recover from your back pain as well as other functional issues. Here, we’ll take a look at the top strength exercises as well as how you can prevent further injury. 

Working through the Pain

For many people, working out while in pain is the last thing they want to do. When you experience pain, it can be tempting to step away from the gym until you feel better, but this is not always the best approach. In fact, stopping your routine can have negative mental and physical effects, particularly if you are an avid exerciser. If you can still move, avoid becoming sedentary, even if you don’t go back to your usual workouts. 

The key to alleviating back pain is to keep moving. Knowing which exercises are protective and restorative takes a little planning and research. Research has shown that continuing physical activity can help ease back pain as well as other conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis. Additionally, strength training can also help with pain and serve as preventative maintenance. 

Many back injuries are caused by underdeveloped muscles and other muscle imbalances. Our spines carry the load daily, and keeping our muscles strong is the key to preventing and healing back pain. This is why it is so important to continue moving in some capacity when you experience back pain. Where many people lose their way is when they don’t have a strategic plan in place to help them get back on track. 

Top Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

Numerous studies have demonstrated that exercise is one way to alleviate back pain. Weight training has been shown to be particularly effective, but cardio can also help with pain relief. Conversely, the longer you go without working out, the worse your back problems will likely become. Over time, you will develop more stiffness and your muscles will fatigue more easily. Weakened muscles—also referred to as a state of deconditioning—will, in turn, exacerbate your back pain.

You should always self-assess and seek help from a physician or trainer to determine if it’s safe to work out and which exercises are safe for you to perform. When conducting your self-assessment, consider your activity level before the pain’s onset, its severity, and whether it is constant or intermittent.

Once you’ve been cleared by a doctor, here are a few of the best exercises to do when you’re experiencing back pain: back extensions, leg presses, bench press on an incline, and goblet squats. As you train, progressively lift heavier weights to improve your load carrying capacity both inside and outside the gym. Some of the main benefits to strength training include improved range of motion; greater muscle strength; lower body fat; increased muscle mass; and better core strength. 

A strong core will keep your back in good shape. However, if you already have an injury, you will probably need to modify your core workouts. Some of the best core exercises that shouldn’t make your back pain worse include bridges, pelvic tilts, crunches on an exercise ball, and wall sits. 

Don’t Forget Flexibility Training

As much as core work and weight training can help relieve your back pain, don’t neglect flexibility training. Stretching combined with weight training and core exercises is a good recipe for handling chronic or acute back pain. Stretching can help correct muscle imbalances that are associated with back strains, so it’s a good idea to perform stretches daily.

The knee-to-chest stretch, hamstring stretches, and floor exercises like Superman stretches or cobra pose can help release tightness and relieve pressure on the lower back. Stretching can be done after a workout, but it can also be done throughout the day as needed.

Other Considerations

Continuing to work out despite your back pain can be a good thing as long as you don’t overdo it. Another thing to remember is that not all exercises are beneficial when you’re in pain. A certified professional trainer or your doctor will be able to recommend exercises that are generally safe to do when you are experiencing back pain. 

Avoid everyday activities like bending at the waist, lifting objects overhead, or high-impact cardio like running, as these can exacerbate back pain. Focus on getting in some type of activity daily but don’t be tempted to push beyond your limits. Listen to your body and use the tips here to get on the road to recovery and prevent future injuries.

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