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Can Exercising Cause Back Pain?

Question: I have constant back pain, and it is most bothersome during exercise and when I pick things up. What could I do to get back strength and function for everyday activities?

Answer: This is a topic many people can relate with.

Back pain can come from numerous sources, including a slipped disc, disc rupture, pinched nerve, muscle spasm, muscle strain or possibly a genetic dysfunction caused from irregular curving of the spine.

As always, you need to get your back checked out by a physician before starting any new exercise program.

As stated in the April issue of Vogue magazine, the American Journal of Public Health has found some interesting facts about rehabilitating back pain. The American Journal of Public Health found that most people who performed exercises specifically for their backs seemed to make their conditions worse, either by doing them incorrectly or by having the wrong ones prescribed.

Many doctors prescribe aerobic exercise because it is easier on the spine, prevents pain-aggravating weight gain and improves your body’s core strength, which can lessen the chance of re-injury.

I would have to agree that, often times, people are doing the wrong exercises to combat back pain.

You first need to know the source of your back pain and work with a professional before jumping into a new routine.

For example, back pain may be occurring because the pelvis is out of alignment because of poor posture or tight and/or weak muscles, such as overtight abdominals, tight hip flexors or weak glutes.

A lot of people think they need to strengthen their abs to lessen back pain, but sometimes they are over-zealous in doing crunches, working just the front (the “six-pack”) area of the abs. This can lead to tightening and shortening of the muscles that pull the pelvis forward, tight hip flexors and also a sore back.

If your glutes are weak, then you’re also being pulled forward at the pelvis. It can cause pain, and, over time, your lower spine can flex forward, putting pressure on your discs.

Try a balanced approach to exercise. Do aerobic exercise such as walking (with good posture — head back, shoulders back, normal stride length).

Also, try performing exercises that work both the abdominals — the obliques (muscles running along your sides) and the transverse abs (deep core muscles that work to pull everything in) — as well as your lower-back muscles. Begin by laying flat and pulling your belly button in. With knees bent and off the floor, drop one leg at a time and see if you can maintain your neutral spine (belly stays still).

Try both legs.

If you can do that, move onto something like a crunch with feet off the floor.

You also can try doing a crisscross (bicycle) type move, but be careful not to pull on your neck or move your upper spine from side to side too much as this can cause more injury.

Do Supermans facing down on the floor (lifting one arm and opposite leg up and holding for 15 or more seconds) to strengthen your back muscles. Try doing this but keeping your abs pulled in and not slouching into the floor.

Keep stretching your whole body to ensure you are not creating muscle imbalances.

And if the pain persists, see a doctor again to get an answer as to why you are having pain. Also consider seeing a physical therapist who can help you along the way.

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