5 WAYS TO MODIFY EXERCISES IF YOU HAVE BACK PAIN
People who suffer from back pain sometimes feel like they can’t exercise the way they’d like to. But using proper techniques it’s possible to manage and even improve back pain while also getting important exercise. Here are five tips to follow for exercising with back pain.
1. Learn how to control your pelvic position: The pelvis can move in a variety of ways. It can move side-to-side, up or down, and forward or backward. One of the most important, and most controllable, is the front-to-back motion, also called anterior (front) and posterior (back) pelvic tilt. Anteriorly tilting of the pelvis can cause the lower back to increase its curvature, place pressure on the tissues of the lower back and increase the risk of injuries such as spondylolisthesis (slipped disc). A posterior tilt can decrease the pressure on the lumbar spine of the lower back. Maintaining this position during exercise can help decrease back pain and improve control of the abdominal musculature.
2. Maintain a neutral spine: This concept goes hand in hand with #1. A neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when all three curves of the spine— cervical (neck), thoracic (middle), and lumbar (lower)—are in proper alignment. This is the strongest position for the spine when standing or sitting. Keeping this in mind when focusing on your pelvic position can reduce the onset of back pain or injury during physical activity.
3. Maintain an abdominal brace: Abdominal bracing consists of tightening the deep abdominal muscles during an exercise or activity. Instead of activating these muscles properly, many people push their breath out or hold their breath. The proper way to perform an abdominal brace is to squeeze and pull your belly button toward your spine as if somebody is trying to poke you in the stomach. This brace allows you to keep the muscles contracted while still being able to breathe. This will help keep you in a better position while using #1-2.
4. Learn to dissociate your upper and lower body: Lifting and carrying things is a part of our everyday lives and being able to perform these properly can play an important role in avoiding or managing lower back pain. Most people lift a heavy object with a slight knee bend, with most of the force produced through their lower back and arms. This position places great stress on the spine and surrounding musculature. The proper way to lift an object is to keep the object as close to your center of gravity as possible, perform the abdominal brace described above, and lift with the legs in a squat or lunge position. The proper position consists of knees/hips bent, chest up, head forward, and #1-3.
5. Progressive overload: At the gym, increasing the resistance in a too heavy, too fast fashion is the main contributor to lower back pain or injury for both newcomers and veterans alike. Progressive overload is a principle that involves gradual increases in load on the body during exercise training. This can be performed either by slowly increasing the resistance (weight) during activity or maintaining the same weight and increasing the repetition of an exercise. This can help reduce the risk of injury and ensure that your body has the proper time to adjust to the demands you are placing upon it. Preferably, bodyweight exercises should be done first and then the load can be added once proper techniques have been learned and difficulty with the initial body weight routines has decreased.
Contact your physical therapist or strength coach to learn how to implement the tips above into your workouts and everyday activities!