Can You Still Exercise if You Have Back Pain?

Let us help you with a common question with chronic back pain.

If you have been reading our posts about back pain, or you suffer from chronic back pain, it’s only natural that you would be curious as to whether or not you can still exercise with this type of pain. The old school of thought was that it was better to rest and refrain from physical activity when dealing with injury or illness, but we now know this may not be the case.

Physical activity maintains mobility and flexibility. It strengthens the muscles so that future injuries are less likely. It increases blood flow and oxygen levels in the body for healthy tissue growth and repair. Of course, it’s best to discuss with your doctor what you can and can’t do. Certain activities may improve new or acutely exacerbated chronic pain conditions such as low back pain, but it is advisable to discuss it with your doctor first.

How Pain Impacts Exercise

It’s important to note that the significance of your injury will greatly impact what exercises you can do. If you have debilitating pain that makes you want to stay on the couch, you will need to wait until the back starts to heal before you get back to exercising. Seeing a doctor is a smart move if you think that something more serious might be going on, or that getting a proper stretching regimen might help. A doctor will rule out serious injuries such as broken bones or certain health conditions. By seeing a doctor, you can also be advised as to when you can start exercising and what types of activities are acceptable. If the chronic pain is significant, or you have been dealing with the pain for quite some time, see your doctor before jumping back into exercise.

Safe Exercises to do with Lower Back Pain

Below are the best exercises to do when you suffer from back pain.

Walking: Most doctors recommend walking because it doesn’t place the same amount of stress on the spine as activities like jogging or cycling. Walking is something that you can do at your own pace. Start slow and switch up your routine by adding in short bursts of fast walking, or use a walking stick.

Swimming: Swimming is a form of cardio that’s easy on the back. You may, however, have to adjust your stroke so that you are not overextending your back. People with back pain find that the backstroke and breaststroke are well tolerated.

Water Aerobics: Water aerobics and aqua jogging are similar to each other in that they are both cardio activities that are easy on the lower back. Water aerobics is like an aerobics class in water; you lift weights, march, hop and skip. Aqua jogging involves easy water jogging or short sprints.

Recumbent Bike: Bikes and treadmills require a lot of balance and stability that you may not be ready for. A recumbent bike, on the other hand, provides the back with support so that you can comfortably burn calories while riding.

Weight Machines: As long as you are pain-free while sitting, weight machines will control your balance and movement as you lift weights and strengthen the muscles. Make sure that you sit up straight and suck in your stomach so that your lower abdominal muscles support your lower back.

Yoga: Yoga promotes stretching, flexibility and strength. Certain postures can help lengthen your spine and stretch your muscles so that your back returns to its normal alignment. Yoga is not recommended if you have severe pain, but as long as it’s manageable, this ancient practice is safe and can actually decrease pain.

Are there any types of physical activity that you should avoid with chronic back pain? Yes – stay away from exercises that require you to hold a free weight away from the body, repetitive bending at the waist or any exercises that are painful. The most important thing is that you listen to your body.