“How do I manage back pain with exercise?” and other questions like this are ones that my clients most ask me frequently.
In fact, researchers believe that 80% of people will experience back pain in their lifetime (1) and back pain is the single leading cause of disability, worldwide (2).
These are troublesome statistics. If you have questions similar to my clients, read on! In this post we are look into how you can manage your back pain.
How Do I Manage Back Pain with Exercise and Why Does My Back Ache At All?
Your pain can start from any of several reasons:
- You were involved in a traumatic impact and you damaged tissues in your back
- You suffered an injury at another joint in the body and now your back is working over time to compensate
- You spend too much time in one posture and your back is fatigued and it feels tight
- Your posture is leading to nerves being pushed on and it’s causing you discomfort
- You’re experiencing degenerative changes to tissues in your back
- You’re overusing your back muscles and they aren’t recovering enough
- And more
How Do I Manage Back Pain with Exercise and Why Does My Back Feel Tight?
Imagine if you and two co-workers had a deadline to make by 5 pm tomorrow and the work required all of you to get it done. Now what happens if your two co-workers don’t show up to work tomorrow?
YOU have to work overtime to get the work done!
You joints are the same way…when some muscles can’t contribute due to stress, trauma, or overuse then the one’s that are working have to work harder…causing you feel tight.
How Do I Manage Back Pain with Exercise and Why Would Stretching Make It Worse?
When you have back pain your muscles will protect the area by contracting to provide support and stability while your immune system goes to work healing the area.
Attempting to stretch out the area will:
- Lower the muscles ability to contract and therefore protect the injured area
- Potentially damage the compromised tissue further by pulling on them and deforming them
- Stimulate the painful area, causing more pain and discomfort
But I Get Relief When I Manage Back Pain with Stretching
The relief you get from managing back pain this way is temporary. You may lessen how strong muscles are contracting in your tight back for a short period of time, after which the muscles will tighten up again to protect the area.
If stretching was an optimal way to manage back pain, then you wouldn’t have your back pain for very long.
If the stretching gives you temporary relief, but doesn’t help you manage your back pain in the long term, then it’s not really a solution to your problem.
How Do I Manage Back Pain with Exercise and Why Is It Better Than Massage, Facial Release, Etcetera?
When you exercise, you are ACTIVELY creating a change in how your brain communicates with your back and body, and in the quality of your body’s tissues.
When a therapist is working on you, you are PASSIVE in the process and your body doesn’t learn how to hold it self such that you can recover from the excess inflammation you have and the pain you experience.
So How Do I Manage Back Pain with Exercise?
These are some of the best ways to manage back pain with exercise:
1. Resistance Training for Your Whole Body
Your body’s ability function as a whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Exercising all of your joints will provide you with an improved ability to absorb the force and protect your back.
Resistance training will also strengthen the weaker areas, improving their ability to support strong posture and smooth movement.
2. Choose Resistance Exercises That Stimulates Different Positions
It’s not uncommon for you to experience back pain if your range of motion at your back is poor, and the same parts of your back are being worked all the time.
Performing resistance training through as much range of motion as you can, in several different planes, is key to back health.
Think about being able to extend back, flex forward, rotate left and right, and side bend to both sides.
3. Perform Exercises In As Much Range of Motion as Possible
A healthy back is a back that you can control through large ranges of motion.
If you can move fluidly through long ranges, it shows your muscles are contracting well and supporting your back.
Be sure to move through a full range of motion when you exercise any joint in the body.
4. Use Isometric Exercise
Isometrics are a kind of exercise where your muscles contract and there is challenge, but without any visible movement.
Isometrics are one of the best ways to start resistance training if you are more sensitive to pain and discomfort, especially in your back.
It is easier to moderate the amount of challenge to your body with isometrics, and easier to find a comfortable position to perform the exercise.
5. Improve Your Endurance
Often your pain and discomfort will set in after doing an activity for a prolonged amount of time, even if the pain isn’t present right away.
Using resistance training to improve the endurance of your muscles will help offset how soon you start to experience pain in your back.
6. Avoid Exercising Through Pain
“No pain, no gain,” is a outdated euphemism in the world of health and fitness.
Exercise may cause a “burning” sensation in your muscle, but it should never hurt or be painful.
If your back hurts when you exercises, something isn’t right and you should stop what you’re doing and try to find an alternative.
How Do I Manage Back Pain with Exercise and this Isn’t Something You Have to Live With
Your back pain doesn’t have to be permanent. With exercise, you can dramatically improve how you feel and decrease the pain sensation you feel in your body.
If you’d like support with your back health, or are frustrated by aches and pains, contact us here for a free consultation.
- Rubin Dl. Epidemiology and Risk Factors for Spine Pain. Neurol Clin. 2007; May;25(2):353-71.
- Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116