Lower back pain afflicts approximately eight out of every ten people, both those who are sedentary and those who are physically active. The irony of back pain for the athlete is that while movement is what should be keeping you and your spine healthy, when you push too hard or you don’t let your body recover, back pain can strike you as well.
And, oh, how miserable it is not being able go to the gym, not being able to follow your detailed training plan, and possibly not even being able to tie your shoes. So how can you get back to feeling good and back to regular exercise?
Learn to Love Yoga to Heal Your Lower Back Pain
In a twelve-month study conducted in the U.K., researchers discovered that yoga was a highly cost-effective way to manage and heal lower back pain. Not only that, but the people in the study who did the yoga also took fewer sick days than the non-yoga-doing control group. So, your back hurts less and you get sick less often? Sounds awesome as far as my training aspirations go!
But which yoga poses are the best for your low back? And is there something you can do on your own without attending yoga classes? Yes, indeed. Yoga expert Julie Rader has a sequence of five yoga poses she suggests you do daily in order to relief back pain. At the very least, you should do these after every workout:
- Supine Hamstring Stretch
- Two-Knee Twist
- Pigeon or Thread the Needle
- Legs Up the Wall
For detailed instructions on how to work through this sequence, read Julie’s article “Heal Your Lower Back Pain With These 5 Yoga Poses.”
Low Back Advice From a World-Champion Powerlifter
Maybe yoga isn’t your thing and you’re more of a powerlifting athlete. In fact, maybe that’s why your back hurts to begin with – but don’t worry, we won’t judge you for that. We know that more weights is more better, and we’d hate to have you give up lifting heavy, so here’s a video from one of our resident powerlifters, Donnie Thompson, to help you out.
Donnie knows a thing or two about both lifting heavy and low-back pain. His powerlifting total is 3,000lbs and for his day job he specializes in helping other athletes stay healthy with physical therapy techniques. Check out his advice on how to treat your back pain. You’ll need some rubberbands and a rack (and you may want to make sure none of your friends have their cameras on hand):
Swim Your Back Back to Health
If your back pain has sidelined you to the point that weight training just isn’t an option – even with a good yoga warm up or band routine like Donnie’s – then consider switching to a different activity for a while: swimming.
Swimming and CrossFit coach Hannah Caldas herniated a disc a few years back and she found swimming to be incredibly helpful during her recovery phase. She opted not to undergo surgery and instead showed up to the pool three days a week. According to Hannah:
There are a few main reasons why swimming is a good rehabilitation tool:
- It is low impact. (Unless you are training to be an elite swimmer at which point you will be putting your body through a more intense, higher impact workout.)
- It is a form of active stretching – swimming technically will ensure full range of motion movements for many different body parts.
- It provides just enough resistance from water to provide, over time, sustained aerobic conditioning to the rehabilitating subject, allowing them to continue to workout while rehabbing at the same time.
If your low-back pain is severe enough that even swimming seems daunting, you can start small. Hannah suggests you begin by getting into the water up to chest height and simply walking in the water. This is similar to what many therapist will have you do in their therapy pools. Once you’ve done this for a number of sessions and you feel good enough to swim, opt for the back stroke as the water will help support your back and thus relief some tension.
For more on how swimming helped Hannah get back to competitive sports, read her article “Rehab Your Back Injury With Swimming, Not Surgery.”
What to Do If You’re Stuck Sitting All Day
Despite your active lifestyle, we know that many of you get stuck sitting for long periods of time, whether at your desk, driving a car, or flying to your next awesome fitness-adventure destination. In this video, yoga expert Jon Kolaska shares a simple stretch you can do while seated that will bring your lower back some relief:
Take the Time to Slow Down and Heal
For most people, while back pain is a setback, it will be a temporary one. Refusing to acknowledge that you have to slow down, though, could result in your back pain becoming chronic and/or more severe. So take your pain as a sign that you need to change your speed and intensity for a bit. It doesn’t mean you can’t be active, but you may need to adjust your activities a bit.
Have you experienced low-back pain? What sorts of stretches, mobility work, or exercises helped you heal? Post your experiences and thoughts to the comments below.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.