Can Exercise Worse The Back Pain And What Are Recommended Exercises For A Back Pain
When in pain, are there exercises that hurt your back?
The short easy answer is “Yes”! Exercises that you do on a regular basis may actually harm your back if you have recently injured it or are in significant pain. Many patients continue there usual exercise routine while even in a “flare-up” or after a injury.
This might actually slow the normal healing time of your back pain. For the sake of being brief, I will discuss lower back pain, but some of the basic principles can be applied to most areas of joint pain. A proper low back diagnosis is recommended prior to continuing or changing your workout program.
Back pain while bending forward (flexion-intolerant).
This is a very common type of lower back pain. The pain will be worse when leaning forward and you might have pain into the buttocks or thighs. Any symptoms radiating further or including changes in bowel or bladder changes, see your doctor ASAP. Many common stretches involve flexion of your lower back. It is paramount to avoid this motion in the beginning stages of a back injury. Many patients will simply not improve until they stop this exercise.
Exercises to avoid with a flexion type low back injury.
First, avoid all exercises that bend your back forward at the waist. These include crunches, toe touches, and seated forward bends. Any exercise that involves a forward posture is not recommended. Some of the other exercises to avoid with a flexion injury are:
Bike reading while leaning forward.
Whether it’s a dull ache that sets in towards the end of a ride, the odd twinge getting in and out of the chair at the coffee stop, or a raging sciatica that prevents cycling altogether, many of us have experienced some form of back pain. And the sad truth is, these problems often seem to be brought on – or at least exacerbated – by riding a bike.
You might be frustrated; you might be in pain; but one thing you certainly won’t be is alone. The UK Health & Safety Executive put the number of work days lost to back pain at 2.8 million in 12 months across 2018-19. More seriously, it’s not unreasonable to estimate that the number of bike rides missed runs to seven figures, or at least not far off.
Cyclists seem to get a raw deal in the back pain stakes. A Norwegian study of 116 pro cyclists found lower back pain to be the most prevalent overuse injury in the group, with 49 cyclists reporting the issue.
More evidence for this effect comes from Australian research, which compared nine healthy (symptom-free) cyclists and nine cyclists with chronic lower-back pain. In short, the researchers found that the cyclists in the pain group tended to have excessive increased lower back flexion (forward bending in the lower back), which was associated with reduced activity of deep low-back muscles called multifidus – key stabilisers of the lumbar spine.
Toe touches while standing or seated.
5 REASONS TO AVOID THE STANDING TOE TOUCH
Before you bend over and touch your toes, look at why you might want to try a new stretch this time.
1. Your back bears the brunt
The goal, for man, when doing the standing toe touch is to stretch the hamstrings. The lock their knees and bend over to feel the burn in the back of their legs, but the back bears the brunt of this move.
When you go straight to the toe touch from an erect position, most of the stretch is done only at the lower back. Instead of stretching the entire back or the hamstrings, you are forcing the stretch to only an isolated area.
2. Puts pressure on the discs in your back
When doing the toe touch, many push their legs together and lock their knees before bending over. When this occurs, the goal is usually to try and bring the chest to the knees. Again, this forces flexion only in your lower back. As a result, the stretch stresses the discs in your back. This will cause a host of problems in the future, and if you have a back injury, you will put yourself at risk for further injury or aggravation.
3. Your back will accommodate tension
Perhaps you are bending over into the standing toe touch to relieve any tension or non-movement in your back. You think the safest way to get your spine flexible and moving again is to stretch it all the way out, but you are not. You are doing the opposite by forcing only one part of your body to move.
If you are experiencing any tension or immobile areas in your, you aren’t stretching them with the toe touch. In fact, the back will accommodate those areas if you simply dive into the toe touch. Instead of stretching the area, you will likely adjust your technique and movements to avoid pain and discomfort. Sometimes you do this without being conscious of it.
4. Your back is unstable
If you experience frequent back pain and you do touches to relieve the pain, you are avoiding a larger issue – the back pain. Temporary relief is like trying to put a Band-Aid on a broken bone. You may hide it for a while, but you need to address the real problem before it affects your life and mobility.
When you do the standing toe touch, you aren’t doing your back any favors. Your back needs stability, strength, and lengthening. The toe touch does not accomplish any one of the three. Instead, you are just elongating the nerves in the back, simply turning off the fire alarm of the danger, instead of fixing the actual fire.
5. Stretching before can leave you more vulnerable during your workout
Perhaps it was gym class that instilled this idea in us, or maybe some of the old workout videos in your closet. No, static stretching before your workout does not increase your performance or reduce injury. It may actually do the opposite. Static stretching before you perform or work out does a couple things: reduces your mobility during your workout, and prevents you from achieving maximum strength, and it increases risk for injury. If you didn’t have a bad back before, you could be asking for one now.
Any back lying abdominal exercises.
Strengthening exercises shouldn’t cause unnecessary pain. However, some people may experience lower back pain when performing ab workouts, particularly crunches and sit-ups.
Why your lower back might hurt during an ab exercise
The leading cause of lower back pain during ab workouts is poor form. For instance, engaging your back muscles instead of your abdomen can lead to discomfort in the back. Another example is curving the back too much when lifting, which can stress the lower spine.
These are prime examples of why some people may experience lower back pain during ab exercises.
Too much, too soon
Even with the correct form, doing lots of ab exercise too early can lead to lower back pain.
Exercising too intensely or too long can lead to fatigue and strain through the back if you don’t patiently work on strengthening the ab muscles over time.
Warming up or stretching before your workout helps prepare your body by activating your muscles and increasing blood flow.
When muscles haven’t been engaged, they may not be prepared for heavy movements, leading to strain and injury through the lower back.
Being deconditioned is another reason for lower back pain during ab exercises. Regular exercise causes stress and strain through your muscles, and over time, it builds up strength and confidence. Exposing the body to multiple exercises ensures you don’t neglect certain muscles.
The body is like a chain — you are only as strong as your weakest link. Any areas that are not strong enough can cause the lower back to work too hard, or perhaps the back isn’t strong enough to carry the load. Make sure that you are regularly performing a range of exercises.
How to protect your lower back from injury during abdominal workouts
It can be tempting to skip the pre-workout warm-up when pressed for time. However, easing into the workout with gentle stretches or progressive movements prepares your muscles for the work ahead. It increases blood flow and helps activate your muscles.
Spend about 10–15 minutes on simple exercises like gentle trunk rotations, shoulder rolls, and lunges.
Stop if you experience pain
If your back starts to hurt during a workout, stop immediately and note what triggered your pain. Experiencing pain during an exercise is a clear sign you should rethink your workout plan.
Avoid or change any exercises that could be triggering your pain. Alternatively, you may consider seeking the help of a health professional, such as a strength coach or physical therapist.
Strengthening your core and lower back muscles
Strengthening or training your lower back muscles more often can protect your lower back during abdominal workouts. This is particularly true if you have an inactive work-life and improper posture.
Even simple exercises like brisk walking can cause lower back pain if the muscles are underdeveloped or not working effectively.
Examples of starting exercises you can consider include planks, bridges, dead bugs, and pelvic tilts. These movements allow you to build core strength gradually to protect against lower back pain.
Gradually increasing your workouts
Another effective method for avoiding lower back pain during ab workouts is starting with basic movements before progressing to more challenging ones.
While it may be tempting to try the advanced techniques, not developing your fundamentals increases the risk of developing injuries, like lower back pain.
Pulling of one or both knees to the chest.
If you ever feel like you somehow miss the mark when you attempt a low back stretch—even though you know those muscles are very tight and you make every effort to release them—you are not alone. For many of us, stretching hip, neck, calf, and other muscles is a pretty straightforward deal.
But the back muscles? Not so much. These can get so tight that they become hard to reach. Finding the sweet spot for stretchiness in low back muscles can be difficult if you don’t choose the right exercise for the job.
You may do a sustained toe touch in hopes of improving back flexibility. And yes, you’re rounding your back, which technically speaking puts those muscles on a stretch, but the movement of toe touching primarily happens at the hip joints. The back rounding tends to be an offshoot of that, and it is not particularly safe, either.1
That’s where the knees-to-chest stretch comes in. Not only does it feel great in most instances, but it’s a wonderful way to restore flexibility in your low back muscles following an afternoon of gardening or housework or after a day at the computer.
But the knees-to-chest stretch is good for more than low-back muscle release. As a range of motion exercise, in other words, a movement that increases your joint flexibility, the knees-to-chest stretch may help reduce stiffness associated with spinal arthritis and/or spinal stenosis.
For people who have osteoarthritis, range of motion exercises can help lubricate the joints, increase blood flow and deliver nutrients to the problem area.
How to Do the Knees-to-Chest Exercise
For your safety, start doing the knees-to-chest stretch with one leg only. If, after a few days, you’re performing it without pain, it’s likely time to advance to lifting both legs, according to Rajter.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. This is called the supine position.
- Gently raise one bent knee up enough so you can grasp your lower leg with both hands. Interlace your fingers just under the knee.
- If you’re doing the two-legged version, bring one leg up and then the other. Because taking both up at the same time takes a lot of abdominal strength, starting with one and then quickly following with the other is likely safer, especially for vulnerable backs.
- As with the single-legged version, if you are taking both up at the same time, interlace your fingers or clasp your wrists between the lower legs, just below the knees.
- Gently pull your bent knee or knees toward your trunk, using your hands.
- While you’re pulling, try to relax your legs, pelvis, and low back as much as you can. The knees-to-chest better reaches low back muscles when used passively.
- Hold for a few seconds.
- Return your leg to the floor.
- Repeat on the other side.
Do the stretch about 10 to 15 times, one or two times per day or as needed.
Seated leg presses.
Like all exercises that use resistance machines, the leg press is sometimes looked down on by those who spend a lot of time in the gym because it is not deemed as effective as free-weights moves like the back squat. But while there’s no doubt that that barbell move is one of the finest lower-body exercises around, this ignores what the leg press – and all resistance machine moves – can do.
While it may not train all the stabilising muscles in your joints or recruit the core muscles in the same manner that free weights exercises do, working in a fixed movement pattern with a resistance machine can be very useful for isolating the exact muscle you’re looking to train. Machines are also good for beginners looking to master a movement before they try it with a loaded barbell.
Most gyms will have two kinds of leg press machine to choose from. One of them involves sitting up straight with bent legs resting against a horizontal plate. You then push your body away from the plate by straightening your legs. With this kind of machine, you select the weight by sticking a pin in a weight stack.
Lying on your back and pulling a knee up while doing trunk rotations.
Twisting of the lumbar spine (the low back) is dangerous and can be quite harmful. The most common and a significant issue can be a disc tear. In order to avoid this, rotation of the mid back or thoracic spine and hips is better for you.
Twisting the low back is among the three movements that can cause significant injury to the low back. The others are bending and lifting. Imagine that your disc has two parts. An inner gel and outer onion layer, the outer onion section is made of several layers.
That onion layer is made primarily of collagen and can be progressively injured, layer by layer, the more you bend, lift and twist your low back. Once injured, the inner gel can find its way out of the opening and cause some serious pain and disability.
So, does this mean that we should all stop twisting? Of course this isn’t realistic and quit frankly impossible, since vacuuming and even walking has a twisting component in it. Also think of all the athletes that twist including tennis players, golfers, hockey and baseball players.
These athletes have been putting a significant amount of force through rotation after rotation for their entire career. The only difference is that they learned how to rotate more efficiently. This means stop twisting the low back and learn to use your hips and midback.
You need to learn to stop moving the low back and stiffen it up.
The old hurdles stretch, where one leg is paced straight out in front of the body and the other leg is bent underneath the body, typically results in knee pain. This is because the leg behind the body places a dangerous amount of stress on the stabilizing structures of the knee and may lead to ACL or MCL injury.
Many or at least a couple of these have probably been advised by your chiropractor or physical therapist. If you have the type of low back pain I described, try staying away from these for a couple weeks and see if it helps. After recovery, these exercises are totally fine to resume