Back pain is one of the most common conditions people of all ages experience and is the leading cause of disability worldwide according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Having said this, it causes many people to hold back from engaging in work or other everyday activities such as exercising.
Exercising is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle, so it is essential to do the right exercises for your body and avoid the wrong ones, especially if you are dealing with a low back pain.
We have included the exercises for you to avoid if you are suffering with Low back pain.
Sit-ups and similar ab exercises are heavily reliant on what’s called “hip flexion”, which poses a big pulling force that is about 700 pounds of compressive force on your lumbar disc (ie. lower back).
Basically, as these hip flexor muscles activate, they pull your torso and hips closer together, pull your spine, and wedge your intervertebral discs together, which over time could lead to a herniation.
Doing the exercise on a comfortable mat or other soft surfaces could still impose risk as the movement repeatedly compresses and decompresses the outer walls of spinal discs and irritates nearby nerve roots. Depending on the extent of nerve compression and herniation, surgery may be needed.
Lifting Heavy Weights
This exercise can cause spinal damage when performed incorrectly as the weight from the bar is applied directly to the spine. This places force on the spinal discs, especially when done with a heavy weight.
Jerking movements may also cause the back to lose balance and force the spine to try to regain stability. By performing this exercise with a rounded or arched back, the amount of disc compression increases and can result in bulged discs, pinched nerves, or other issues.
Restoring strength to your lower back by exercising can be helpful in relieving pain. However, lifting two heavy legs while lying on your back can be very demanding to your core and an already weak back. This exercise can make back pain worse by putting too much pressure on your spinal joints..
When you do leg lifts, your abs are not the primary mover of that exercise. Studies involving electromyography testing – which looks at muscle activation patterns – shows that the hip flexors, not your abs, are doing most of the work. What’s worse, because the hip flexors attach at your lumbar vertebrae they pull forcefully on that sensitive area.
What to do Instead?
Fortunately, there are exercises you can alternatively do that can work your muscles in a way that is less stressful to your spine. Depending on the cause of your injury, it’s hard to prescribe exercises that will work for you, but here are a few that could help:
Planking will improve the health of your spine and build a defense against back pain. When done correctly, planks allow you to build strength in your core without stressing your spine. When you hold your spine in a neutral position, it helps to stabilize and protect your spinal joints.
Many yoga poses can promote a strong, healthy and pain-free back. Yoga is meant to develop a balanced and supple body. A significant aspect of minimizing or preventing lower back discomfort is proper body balance and good posture, which helps preserve the natural curvature of the spine. There are many yoga poses to choose from. If you have low back pain, the focus should be on breathing and doing poses that provide relief.
A water workout is a low-impact activity that conditions and strengthens muscles, helping you better support your spine. The water’s buoyancy reduces the pressure on your bones and joints by bearing some of your body weight. So unlike exercising on the ground, exercising in a pool offers a “cushion” of water for your body, which takes tension off your back. It allows for easier movement and less pressure on your spine.
Some people respond to lumbar extension/backbend exercises – and some don’t. Some people like yoga exercises and some don’t. The best approach is to understand the cause of your back pain and then get a customized exercise prescription that will alleviate pain, improve mobility, and get you back to doing the activities you love.
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About Michelle Andrie
My name is Michelle Andrie, a Yoga Therapist of 30-years. I’ve owned Yoga Therapy studios, a retreat center, a teacher training school, and now, a Yoga Therapy online business called Age Less Move More and I am the creator of the Low Back Pain-Free Program.