The Proper Way to Work Out with Back Problems

17th September 2019
Bad postures, illnesses, contractures and other situations can cause important back problems. People who are used to working out and training must adapt their routine to their needs.

Along with stress, back problems are one of the most common ailments in modern life. The conjunction of negative factors that add up to cause this problem is a big one. Bad posture, inappropriate rest, a sedentary lifestyle and a lack of physical activity are just some of them.

On top of the factors we just listed, discomfort in the lumbar area may have other roots such as high levels of distress. This is a condition that appears as the first cause for work absenteeism in offices.

Step one: identify the origin of your back problems

Even if it’s a pretty common situation, a specialist should review each case individually (orthopedists and physical therapists in the first instance). Therefore, the first mistake you must avoid is training with a back problem without knowing where it comes from.

Once you know the causes, you can design a completely personalized workout plan. In this plan, you must focus on the areas of muscles that require more effort. It’s also important to avoid movements and exercises that, according to your doctor, are not feasible for your condition.

Good diet

We’ve talked a lot about the need to combine a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a completely balanced diet. To optimize the functioning of our bodies, we need to maintain an ideal weight as much as we need to work out regularly.

As a matter of fact, orthopedists, physical therapists, and trainers, on top of ‘prescribing’ specific workout routines for people with back problems also refer their clients to a nutritionist.

In many cases of people with these issues, being overweight is a frequent symptom. The same thing happens in the opposite case: there are athletes with weak muscles because they suffer from some sort of nutrition deficit.

A woman holding a scale and looking at it

Prior warm-up

This is a habit that every athlete must have; it doesn’t matter if they suffer from eventual or frequent ailments in any part of their body or not. We need to prepare our muscles for the effort they’re about to make, no matter what type of activity we do.

Working out without a previous warm-up is one of the main causes of permanent injuries in the lumbar area. This is especially true with gym workouts in which the person lifts heavyweights. The muscles must be ready for that type of effort.

Respect the technique

Just as the previous aspects, this applies to any person who works out. Of course, people who suffer from back problems need to care for their backs more than those who don’t.

On top of being a useless effort, lifting weights without respecting the technique is another central risk factor for injuries. Accidents that cause permanent damage may occur. These injuries may even go as far as to incapacitate the affected muscles partially or severely.

Woman with back problems trying to lift weights from the ground

High-risk exercises for people with back problems

There are some movements that are particularly dangerous for athletes with dorsal problems. Lifting weights from the ground is one of them. It’s a situation that may be present frequently in their life and daily activities.

If you inevitably have to face this scenario, bend your knees to prevent the whole load from falling directly on your back. Also, try to squeeze your abdominal area to increase the protection of the vertebrae in the lower part of your spine.

Broadly speaking, the gym exercises that involve lifting weights while standing up are almost completely discarded for people with back problems. On the other hand, we recommend doing exercises such as the alternate bicep curl leaning against a wall without pulling away from it.

A group of people swimming as an alternative excercise for back problems

Back problems: swimming and yoga

Swimming is a part of most injury recovery treatments. It’s especially good for people who suffer from constant back pain. Swimming is an effective way to strengthen all the back muscles. Another one of its virtues is that it’s also a very relaxing activity; this is a vital factor to reduce tension and diminish the discomfort.

In the last instance, yoga is another option we recommend for athletes (professional or amateurs) who suffer from back pain. This is because it stimulates the flexibility of all muscles groups, which has similar effects to the ones we experience with swimming. These benefits include releasing tension and strengthening the tissues.

  • FREMAP. 2013. Guía para el cuidado de la espalda. Extraído de: https://canal.uned.es/uploads/serialmaterial/Serie/1124/Gu__a_para_el_cuidado_de_la_espalda.pdf
  • Universidad de la Rioja. 2015. Ejercicios y consejos para cuidar la espalda. Extraído de: https://www.unirioja.es/servicios/sprl/pdf/ejercicios.pdf