The thought of working out with back pain can seem strange or scary, especially when the source of the pain may not be understood. However, you can exercise safely, as long as you are properly informed.
Caution translates into resting until it goes away, which happens to be flawed logic.
Exercise not only preserves what functionality you have, but it is also the single best way of healing your back. Exercise safely to strengthen muscles around an injured area and increase blood flow to the affected area. Blood flow also means that a flood of nutrients that will accelerate the healing process.
When starting an exercise program while dealing with pain, be sure to be seen by your doctor or a physical therapist to make sure nothing more serious is going on.
How To Exercise Safely
First, you will need to deal with tight muscles and work on providing relief for your back. There should be a general warmup that you do before EVERY workout. At first, loosening tight muscles and warming up may take 10-15 minutes, but overtime and as you improve, it may only take 5-10.
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Get Acquainted with a Foam Roller to Exercise Safely
Foam rollers will help decrease tension in tight muscles. You can roll before, during, or after exercise. If you are in pain, the best bet is to foam roll multiple times each day until you feel relief. You can then cut back to once per day, then a few times per week before exercise.
Foam rolling is not meant to be comfortable – but it should be tolerable.
Foam Rolling Steps:
- Place the roller on or near the intended area.
- Do broad strokes along target muscle.
- Pinpoint trigger points – these feel like tender spots on the muscle.
- Keep pressure on that spot for 30-40 seconds. Remember to breathe!
- Pain/discomfort will reduce.
- Once the pain is gone and 30-40 seconds have passed, move on to the next trigger point.
- Repeat on the next area.
Resting on tight spots for 30-40 seconds is necessary for your muscles to release tension. Also, make sure you take deep diaphragmatic breathes to help ease tension in the body.
In dealing with back pain, focus on the Piriformis and the Hip Flexors.
- Sit on top of the roller and keep one hand behind you.
- Stretch out on leg and cross the other over it.
- Bend the bottom leg so your foot is flat on the ground.
- Lean into that side.
- Roll up and down the glute and pause on tender spots.
- One hand will be behind you providing support while the other is on your knee.
- Kneel and place the foam roller in front of your knee.
- Lean forward so that the roller is pinned between your quad and the floor.
- Your elbows will also be on the floor and it will look like you are doing a low plank.
- With the roller on your quad, roll up and down your leg, pausing on tender spots.
- You can do both legs together (easier) or one leg at a time (harder).
- You can rotate the body and hit the muscles on the sides of the leg as well.
Fire Those Glutes
Usually, back pain will come from sitting too much. Overtime, sitting will cause the muscles of the glutes (butt) to not fire effectively. The help stabilize the spine, and if weak can cause a lot of dumping into the lower back.
- Lay on your back.
- Bend your knees and keep your feet flat.
- Keep your arms to your sides.
- Squeeze your butt and lift your hip up towards the ceiling.
Pro Tip: If you feel the front of the leg or back, your glutes are not firing. In this scenario, extend your hip up towards the ceiling, place your hands on your butt, hold, and try to focus on your glutes. Hold it until you can feel tension in the target muscle.
Learn to Lift Properly
You should not avoid exercises like squats or deadlifts since they are fundamental movement patterns that you should be able to do pain free. But before attempting them, familiarize yourself with form by seeking the help of a professional. They can modify the movements to fit your needs and keep you away from pain and make sure you can exercise safely. Avoiding them altogether will do more harm than good.