All pain is not equal. A headache from too much caffeine can be relieved by drinking water, but back pain is very different. Unfortunately back pain can make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and hinder our willingness to exercise, which only makes the problem worse by further encouraging a sedentary lifestyle.
However, according to a research study at Stanford University, while overweight individuals are statistically more likely to be afflicted with back pain, adults who exercise for a mere 20 min/day had a 32% reduction in their back pain. In addition to eating high-protein, low-carb foods and getting plenty of sleep, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your back pain.
Remember, you don’t have to go “all out” when exercising, especially when you have chronic back pain. You can ease into it bit by bit, but it is absolutely crucial for our overall health that we stay active.
Here are some gentle but effective exercises you can do even if you struggle with back pain.
First, start by lying down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your lower back for support. Use your abs to slowly lift one leg up at a time while your other leg is bent at the knee and your foot is flat on the floor. Slowly lift your leg 6-8 inches off the floor, hold briefly, and lower it slowly. Repeat this movement 10-20 times before switching to the other leg.
You can also try doing some gentle stretching exercises to loosen up your back muscles. Try lying on your back and bringing one knee to your chest, then holding it there for 20-30 seconds. Repeat this stretch with the other leg. Really allow yourself to get in touch with where the pain is, recognize your range of motion, and give yourself permission to do what feels good here.
If you’re struggling with back pain, it might be time to see a doctor or physical therapist. They can help you determine the cause of your pain and develop a treatment plan to address it.
Walk it off
Walking is a great way to exercise your back and loosen the muscles. You might find it difficult to walk at first but keep it up and don’t give up. You don’t have to go for miles, or at a fast pace, and you should try to stick to a level surface as steep hills will tend to recruit lower back muscles. It’s also best if you can walk on a gentle surface, like grass or sand, rather than concrete.
Ice packs and heat
Ice packs and heating pads (or hot water bottles) are a great way to relax your muscles. Many athletes alternate between the two as a way to manage and soothe soreness in their knees and back.
Consider a massage
According to Harvard Medical School, there are benefits to massage therapy compared with not actively managing pain. You can sometimes work out tension in your muscles. In many cases, the muscles are relaxed through exercise but fail to relax completely. A massage helps to ensure that the muscles are released and the tension is eased.
While this is a very relaxing and nice way to spend an hour or two hours, it can sometimes be a little costly. The other option is to use a little thing called foam roller. Foam rollers are easy to find and use. You lie on a flat surface and roll the parts of your back over it that need massaging.
Be kind to your spine
Something often overlooked by sufferers of back pain is the spine. How you treat your spine affects the way you feel overall. Your spine does a lot of work throughout the day and needs to be treated. If you’re lifting with your back, rather than your legs, you are asking for pain. Building strong legs by doing wall squats, is a great way to learn how to engage your legs and glutes, which should be the primary muscles used when lifting, standing, or sitting.
Stretch your back
Warm up before you start exercising by starting slow and then once you’re done, try to stretch your back muscles. This type of exercise helps to release the tension and helps to build muscles that are relaxed. Lie on your back and hug your knees for 20 seconds after a workout. Rest and repeat until your back feels more limber.
It’s challenging enough to maintain your weight loss goals without back pain, but if you are struggling with staying active due to a sore back, give our advice a try and see how you feel after a couple weeks. You can also feel free to book an appointment with Dr. Blissenbach here for a telemedicine consultation regarding any frustrating health issues you may be experiencing.
 Smuck M, Kao MC, Brar N, Martinez-Ith A, Choi J, Tomkins-Lane CC. Does physical activity influence the relationship between low back pain and obesity? Spine J. 2014 Feb 1;14(2):209-16. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.11.010. Epub 2013 Nov 12. PMID: 24239800.