After experiencing an injury or any lasting pain that makes it difficult to perform certain activities, it might sound logical to completely stop all participation in physical activity and rest until the pain subsides. While this may be necessary in some cases, there are many situations when it’ s best to keep moving and stay active in order to improve your condition, and one of these is an extremely prevalent condition: low back pain.
Low back pain is one of the most common types of pain out there, as up to 84% of Americans will experience it at least once in their lives. When low back pain strikes, moving around might be the last thing on your mind, but new research is showing that exercise is actually a necessity for improvement in most cases. In one recent study, patients who exercised regularly were 31% less likely to experience an increase in pain and disability compared to those who spent most of their time resting.
Exercises for the lower back can strengthen the rest of the back, as well as stomach and leg muscles, which will in turn help support the spine and eventually relieve pain. Best of all, regardless of the circumstances or the level of pain, there’s an exercise for nearly everyone with low back pain. What’s most important is doing only the right exercises that are beneficial for the back and avoiding those that aggravate it.
A cardinal rule to keep in mind when making this determination is to try to stick with only low-impact exercises, as anything that puts a lot of pressure on the feet will put a strain on the back. Below are some examples of the best activities for a bad back—as well as some activities to avoid—to help you keep moving during this time:
- Swimming: most exercise done in the water is beneficial and safe for back pain, and many consider swimming to be the best activity out there for it; the water provides both support and resistance, and also has a soothing effect
- Brisk walking: walking at a pace fast enough to break a sweat for 15-30 minutes almost every day can lead to significant benefits for the back
- Yoga/Pilates: these activities accommodate all levels of strength and flexibility, and provide an immediate sense of relief through their gentle motions
- Biking: another great low-impact aerobic exercise that’s good for the back
- Stretching: focused stretches can provide immediate relief, and stretching also works as a preventative measure by keeping the spine loose
- Core-strengthening exercises: the core supports the spine, and strengthening it will therefore help back pain; try pelvic tilts, wall sits and partial crunches
- Avoid: high-impact exercises like running/jogging, tennis, some types of dance, as well as contact sports, volleyball, soccer, snowboarding and any other activities that twist the spine or put too much strain on it should be avoided
You should check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new activity, and also remember to stop exercising immediately if it gets too painful. At Cleveland Physical Therapy Associates in Kings Mountain and Shelby, NC, we encourage you to stay active but to do it carefully if you have low back pain. If you need more assistance figuring out which exercises are best for you, or for any other questions, give us a call at 704-471-0001 to schedule an appointment.