Getting into shape at the gym is one of the best things you can do to manage your back pain. However, for many people with back pain, working out can create even more back pain. Which is not to say you should stop working out. There are things you can do to ensure your back benefits from your sweat session. While some of these may seem obvious, others might come as a surprise. What’s important to remember when working out with back pain is that slow and steady wins the race. While it may be tempting to push yourself, your back will be far better off if you build up your workout routine gradually.
Muscle Soreness Versus Back Pain at the Gym
Even top level athletes experience back pain while working out at the gym. You are going to need to learn is the difference between muscle soreness and back pain. Back pain is a signal that something is wrong. Muscle soreness, on the other hand, is the natural result of working out your back muscles. You will learn soon enough which type of pain is which. Again, remember not to push yourself too hard in the beginning so you can be hyper aware of what exercises are doing your back harm and which ones are doing it good.
More often than not, people who experience back pain at the gym or soon after they workout, do so because they were using improper technique. From running to lifting weights, there are ways to move safely that support the body. This also means that there are ways to move that can cause the body pain. So how do you know if you’re doing it right?
How to Avoid Back Pain at the Gym
First off, simply check in with your back before, during and after an exercise. Notice how you back pain is before you begin working out. If it helps, rate your back pain on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being no pain and 10 being excruciating pain. Next, be aware of how your back feels while you’re working out. Does it hurt in the moment? Finally, take note of how your back feels once you’re done at the gym. Does it feel better or worse than when you started? If during or after the workout you feel a spike in your pain levels, that’s a pretty good sign that something isn’t working.
Solution #1: Understand What Muscles are Supposed to be Working
If you are someone with good bodily awareness, it may be enough to simply review each exercise and understand what muscles are supposed to be working. Sometimes improper technique is the result of not having the right muscles switch on when they’re supposed to. You can refer to exercise books and the countless videos out on the web that breakdown pretty much every conceivable movement you might do at the gym.
Solution #2: Lighten Your Load
If you are aware of what muscles are supposed to be active in what movements, then you back pain may be the result of too much weight. When you are doing strength training, your body may simply not be strong enough yet to lift as much as you are trying to lift. If this is the case, try taking off some of the weight and see how your back feels. You may find that gradually building up weight over time is what allows you to have an awesome and pain-free workout.
Solution #3: Strengthen Your Core Muscles
You may find that your back muscles are already strong. However, you still experience back pain after you spend time at the gym. This may be because your core muscles are weak or not yet strong enough to support your back in the activities that you are doing. If this is the case, make sure you are dedicating a sufficient amount of time to strengthening your core muscles every time you go to the gym. You will be amazed at how much less back pain you experience at the gym when you have strong core muscles.
Solution #4: Avoid Impact
If you are someone who enjoys doing cardio at the gym, try to avoid high impact activities. Things such as running on the treadmill can aggravate the back more. This is especially possible if you have a slipped disk or other pain related to a spinal injury. Instead, do low impact cardio workouts on the stationary bike or elliptical machine.
Solution #5: Get a Personal Trainer
A personal trainer can help you get get fit while dealing with back pain. They will create a tailored workout plan to help you achieve your fitness goals. The plan will include exercises that keep your back safe. You may find you only need a few sessions before you can workout safely on your own. Ultimately, being fit will improve your quality of life and can help you experience a reduced amount of back pain. It is worth the investment and your back will thank you.