Rikhi Anandsongkit and his team of physiotherapists give insight into this counterintuitive issue.
Research shows that exercise is the best ‘treatment’ for back pain. But what happens when exercising hurts instead of helps your back, and why would this happen when the research overwhelmingly shows otherwise?
Here are five reasons why…
1. You’re doing the wrong exercise
Walking is considered an excellent activity to alleviate back pain, and for many people, it helps. But we also have clients who get worse just walking around their house. What the research is really saying is that movement – not necessarily ‘exercise’ – is good for back pain. However, you need to make sure you are doing the right type of movement for YOUR specific type of back pain. If you get the type of exercise or movement wrong, it could end up hurting you more than helping you.
2. You began strength training too soon
Stability and strength training is an important part of back pain recovery – but we often see it introduced too soon. Mobility is something youalways want to look at first and explore fully. Get the spine moving the way it should before you begin stabilising or strengthening it.
3. You aren’t activating your core
One of the biggest misconceptions we see is that having a six-pack means having a strong core. Wrong! You can have the strongest abs in the world – but if you don’t use them when they count, your abs aren’t that useful (other than looking good). Knowing how to properly activate your core is essential when you exercise, especially when you have back pain. If you don’t activate your core properly when you’re lifting weights, or performing complicated movements that require good coordination, you’re setting yourself up for injury.
4. You aren’t breathing properly
Not breathing properly can significantly impact the effectiveness of your exercise routine. As mentioned previously, knowing how to activate your core is crucial when you exercise, and in order to do this, you must be able to breathe properly.
Your deep core is made up of four parts: your deep abdominals, your deep back muscles, your pelvic floor, and your diaphragm. Your diaphragm iswhat controls your breathing. If you aren’t using your diaphragm optimally, not only are you limiting the ability of your deep core to function well, you are also adding unnecessary strain and work to your back muscles.
5. You’re using improper form
The last and most common reason why exercise might be hurting your back is because you aren’t doing it right. There’s a lot of people out there who think posture and form don’t really matter. Butthey do. Whether you are lifting weights or doing body weights, you want your spine to be in good alignment. It might not hurt the first time you liftwith improper form, but it will hurt if you keep repeating it. If you’re going to exercise – and you want to exercise daily – do it with proper form and posture or it’s going to catch up to you and cause you unnecessary back pain.
If exercising is currently hurting your back, it could be one of these five things. Get expert help to figure out which one it might be, because at the end of the day, exercise is good for your back; you just might need some help to get there first.
Rikhi Anandsongkit is the owner of Form Physio and Rehab, a physiotherapy clinic that helps adults in Bangkok get back to doing the things they love without painkillers, injections, and surgeries.