Many of our new patients at Executive Express Chiropractic see us because they injured themselves exercising or playing sports.
One of the most frustrating things for many back pain sufferers is that it (the back pain) interferes with their ability to exercise...and that exercise often times makes the back pain worse. And the funny thing is...the right kind of exercises are probably one of the best things one can do to cure back pain. And most will agree that regular exercise (especially the right kind) actually helps prevent back pain in the first place.
So what gives...how can exercise cause back pain and prevent it...and be both good and bad when you have back pain?
Well...it's the Goldilocks principle. The porridge is either too hot...too cold...or just right!
All of us are different, and we develop a certain level of tolerance for exercise based on how often we do it and what we do. Also baked into the equation are the other things we do on a daily basis. If we deviate from these established routines, the body will adapt, often times in a negative way. Here is an example of what I mean:
My brother just flew to San Diego on a business trip. Now out of the blue he is lugging around heavy bags and equipment and sitting for 8 hours in a sardine can at 30,000 feet. He then sleeps in a different bed with a different pillow. Well the next day he wakes up and can't move because his back is killing him.
This is an extreme example of what can happen when we deviate from our established internal set points and daily routines.
My brother's musculoskeletal system was shocked by the sudden change in the physical demands placed on it...it short circuited. This is the same sort of thing that happens when many people injure themselves exercising or playing sports. They do too much or more than their body is used to dealing with.
Is there a solution...YES. The solution is to consider this variable when you engage in physical activities that are outside of what you would normally do on a day to day basis. If you walk a mile a day...then all the sudden walk ten miles...you will most likely get really sore. But if you walk a mile, then two miles, then 3 miles...and work your way up to 10, stretching before and after, and using ice in between, well chances are really good you will handle it no problem.
Same is true when exercising with back pain you already have. You want to start off really slow...maybe with some stretches and back pain exercises ...then build up the amount of frequency, intensity, and duration, slowly over time. A good chiropractor, physical therapist, or personal trainer can help you do this...or you can do it on your own using common sense and these tips.
Usually, when exercise makes a patients back pain worse, it's because they did too much, or the wrong kind of exercise. You don't want to jump right back into your normal "pre-back pain" workout with back pain. You want to take a few steps back and scale back into it...slowly. Otherwise, yes...you can make the back pain worse.
Icing should be a big part of exercising with back pain. I recommend you ice for 15 minutes before and after exercise. I also recommend you stretch out for 5 minutes before and after...nice and easy...no sudden jerky motions.
Then...when your back pain is gone and you are feeling better...consider adding "core" exercises to your routine to make your back stronger and better able to handle increased work and stress ( core exercises for beginners ).
So there you go. Exercising is a great way to both prevent back pain and treat back pain. But it needs to be done using the Goldilocks principle...not too little...not too much...just the right amount :-)