Sitting all day over-stresses the back, thus causing back 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.
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.