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Back Pain and Exercising

Your back is having a flare up and you decide that the best thing to do is to go into sloth mode.  What’s that?  It’s when you lye in bed for days on end, completely immobile, getting up only to use the bathroom.  You don’t even get up for food because you have your spouse or other family members make room service deliveries to your comfy little spot in bed.  Before you know it, a week has gone by, your back is still killing you, and you’ve created quite the crater on your side of the mattress.

Get Out of That Bed

In my humble, lay person’s opinion and from my personal experience, lying in bed is hands down the worst thing you can do for yourself when your back is acting up.  (Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional, just a back pain sufferer of nearly two decades sharing her experience).  Once the acute phase of severe pain and spasms has subsided, you need to get moving.  Even if it’s just ambulating within your own house.  Any movement is better than immobility.

Be Selective

Not all exercise is created equal.  I’ve found that the lower impact workouts are best with non-impact ones being ideal.  Swimming is by far the best form of exercise for back pain sufferers.  Where else can you get a cardiovascular workout with zero impact upon your joints?!  The new-ish PiYo workout which fuses Pilates with Yoga and speeds it up was an outstanding choice for me, and it’s one that I revisit often.

The Core

Core strengthening exercises are another must-do.  Contrary to popular belief, your core is not just your abdominal muscles.  The core includes the entire “girdle” that surrounds the midsection of your body.  The back muscles are an equally important part of that core.  By strengthening all areas of the core, you are lending valuable support to your vulnerable back.


Listen When Your Body Speaks

First and foremost, if it hurts or aggravates your pain, don’t do it.  Secondly, what works for one person may not for you.  There is no one size fits all.  Over the years, I have figured out which exercises tend to exacerbate my back (e.g., bending forward/backward at the waist with legs together and straight is a no-no for me) and I avoid it at all cost.  Find which ones those are for you and listen to your body when it speaks. High impact activities that involve jarring of the spine are never a good idea for back pain sufferers either.   Bottom line—if it causes you pain, don’t do it.

My biggest piece of advice is to know your own limits.  Do not allow anyone, even a medical professional such as a physical therapist, push you to do an exercise that doesn’t feel right.  Speak up.  Only you know what and how you’re feeling.  Pain is a very individual thing with varying thresholds and tolerances from one person to the next.  Be your own advocate, which includes getting yourself out of sloth mode and into an exercise routine that is suitable and individualized for you.

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