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Tips to Avoid Lower Back Injuries During Exercise

man with lower back pain

Five Ways to Ensure You Maintain Lower Back Health

According to the American Physical Therapy Association, roughly two-thirds of people will deal with some form of lower-back pain or injury during their lives. That statistic doesn’t bode well for those that are attempting to be active and fit, especially if it’s later in life when lower back pain becomes more common due to aging. Low back pain is a broad symptom of a larger problem, and can involve the muscles, bones, or even the nerves in your lower back area.

Back strain is the leading cause of back pain, which is typically due to overuse or incorrect technique when lifting weights or exercising. Low back pain can also be caused by trauma incurred in the lower back region, bad posture or weak muscles. Other more serious conditions include:

  • Spondylosis (degeneration of the spine)
  • Disc herniations
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of spaces between spine)
  • Spondylolisthesis (slipping of spinal bone to vertebra below it)
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction

When it comes to maintaining lower back health and avoiding the common injuries associated with exercise, prevention is the name of the game. If you’re just getting back into doing physical activity after a long period of inactivity, you’ll want to be especially diligent about how you approach exercise and physical fitness.

Here are five tips to avoid lower back injuries during exercise:

Tip #1 – Stretch Often and Thoroughly

Think of stretching as a way to work up to more moderate forms of exercise. Stretching is low impact on the body, but highly beneficial in getting all those muscles and ligaments active so that blood can better circulate throughout the body. This applies not just to your lower back, but the rest of your body as well. Not working a joint such as the knees or the shoulders can lead to the joint getting weak and more prone to injury.

A good place to start with your stretching routine is by doing yoga poses that focus on your lower back and/or build up core strength. The following yoga poses are a great starting point for your routine:

  • Child’s pose
  • Knee-to-chest stretch
  • Piriformis stretch
  • Seated spinal twist
  • Pelvic tilt
  • Cat-cow stretch
  • Sphinx stretch

Always make sure to exercise with proper form and technique to prevent injury. Remember to ease into the stretch and avoid any quick or jerking motions with your body.

Tip #2 – Isolate and Avoid Anything That Causes Your Back Pain to Flare Up

When exercising, there’s going to be what’s informally known as “good hurt” and “bad hurt.” A good hurt is when you’re “feeling the burn” of doing exercise or physical activity that’s challenging your body’s muscles. A bad hurt comes when you get a painful sensation that you’ve pulled a muscle or tweaked something in your back or otherwise. Most of the time this happens due to overuse or not properly stretching out the body before physical activity.

If you’re doing a particular type of exercise that is hurting you or doesn’t feel right, STOP doing it. Trying to work through it or “tough it out” can make a minor injury even worse. This is especially true with pain in the lower back region.

Tip #3 – Practice Proper Posture

Bad posture is the slow and silent killer of the lower back. Sitting incorrectly may not yield injury for several months or even years. Eventually though, bad habits will catch up and begin to cause pain in the lower back or other parts of the body. A few tips when it comes to sitting with proper posture:

  • Don’t slump or slouch in your seat
  • Avoid hunching over or leaning forward
  • Realign your posture throughout the day
  • Try to sit with your feet flat on the floor
  • Keep your forearms and thighs parallel with the floor
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed
  • Avoid crossing your ankles or knees
  • Try to avoid sitting for extensive periods of time (take breaks)

Not only do these tips work for sitting in your office chair, you can apply them to your seated workout routines. If you feel a strain in your back or neck during your workout, make the proper adjustments so as not to put undue stress on those areas.

Tip #4 – Avoid Handling Excessive Weight

Although weight training is a highly beneficial form of exercise, it can cause serious injury to the lower back or other areas if you practice improper technique or try to lift more weight than you can physically handle. There are a couple ways to minimize the chances of injuring or straining your lower back when working with weights.

The first is to focus on repetitions rather than the amount of weight that you’re lifting. For instance, bench pressing 100 pounds 20 times is going to be far more beneficial to your muscles than bench pressing your max amount once. It’s also far less risky as far as injury is concerned.

Another tip that will save your lower back is to use machine weights rather than free weights. You’ll have far more control over your lift, meaning less chance of injury. If you choose to do free weights, try to avoid lifting excessive amounts of weight above your shoulders.

Tip #5 – Avoid Anything High Impact

There is nothing more jarring to the lower back – or knees for that matter – than high-impact exercise. Any physical activity involving running or jumping can be taxing on the lower back and make existing pain even worse.

To offer your lower back some reprieve, try to stick to low-impact exercises such as stretching, yoga, walking (speed walking), swimming, resistance band training, cycling, or light weight training. Always make sure to properly warm up before engaging in exercise of any kind. This reduces the chance of incurring injury.

Contact Mid-America Orthopedics for Low Back Issues

Although taking precautions is a great way to avoid pain or strain in the lower back area, sometimes injuries will happen. In the event that you’re experiencing pain in your back or otherwise, this could be an indicator that you’ve strained or pulled something. In most cases, extended rest, heat/icy therapy, and over-the-counter pain meds such as Tylenol can help relieve the issue. However, if you find that these at-home methods aren’t helping to relieve your pain, contact the team at Mid-America Orthopedics Kansas City to book an appointment.

Our experienced orthopedic doctors can examine you and get to the root cause of the issue that’s causing your pain symptoms. This commonly consists of getting a detailed history, conducting a physical examination or x-rays, and possibly an MRI. In the event that you require surgery, you can rest assured that Mid-America Orthopedics has a team of the best orthopedic and spinal surgeons in the Kansas City area with decades of combined experience.

Take the first step towards pain relief today by booking an examination with Mid-America Orthopedics. For the convenience of our patients, we can typically schedule same-day or next-day appointments.