Back in February we posted that “One half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year and at any given time there are 31 million people experiencing lower back pain (1)” in our Back Pain and Pilates Post.
One of the problems with low back pain in the U.S. is that a lot of people attribute the pain to “getting older” and assume it’s something they’re “just going to have to live with.” That is absolutely not true. You don’t have to suffer pain for the rest of your life.
If you have a job where you sit most of the day, especially in front of a computer- back pain is almost inevitable. Even if you’ve taken precautions such as investing in a good chair, raising the monitor, practicing good posture, etc; you’re still going to have problems. But, the good news is that you can fix them!
If you have chronic low back pain the first thing to do is talk to a doctor. You need someone to take x-rays, do an examination, and determine if underlying structural issues are causing the pain. Most General Practitioners can/will do this, there are also some chiropractors who can run tests and order x-rays. Once you have x-rays in hand, the doctor has checked for tissue problems, and you know what the pain ISN’T-then you can start working on alleviating the pain.
If you started at the GP’s office you’ll most likely be referred to a physical therapist or massage therapist. Physical and massage therapy are great places to start. Chiropractic care can help in some cases- provided that the muscles are being massaged before and after your appointment so they don’t undo the adjustment (when your muscles are super tight they’ll just pull your back right out of alignment again- this is why people often report relief immediately after the chiropractic visit, but the pain comes right back again. We’ll talk a little more about this next week.).
As a Health Club, you probably won’t find it surprising that we believe bodies need to move in order to work properly. Most chronic back pain is another case where strength training and using your body well and properly can greatly improve your quality of life.
We know how it is: the last thing most people want to do after a long day of work is to go work out. But coming home, especially if you sit in a chair all day long, and plopping down on the couch for a couple of hours really isn’t doing your back, or your health, any favors. And if you have lower back issues, don’t come to the gym and sit on a bike, that’s really not helping your back either.
So what WILL help?
First off, and we’ve said it before, talk to a certified personal trainer. Investing in a personal training appointment can help you make a plan for the area(s) you need to work on. If your primary concern is back pain- a personal trainer will show you the right way to exercise to shield the painful areas and build strength to alleviate pain in the future. Every person and every case is a little bit different- and while you can find some great resources on the internet, YouTube can’t check your form and tell you that plank exercise is all wrong and just going to make you hurt worse.
Here are a couple of the things a good trainer will tell you about working with/through low back pain (and like we said above, each case is different).
– Work on your core strength. There are a variety of ways to go about this; the best exercises for back pain are standing core strengtheners. Don’t do crunches; no matter what that online fitness guru said, just don’t do crunches.
-Weight bearing activities will help with your core strength if done correctly. One of the biggest problems with low back pain is posture- this is why you need a trainer’s help. Poor posture during weight bearing activities is just going to cause more pain. And most of us have poor posture- you really need to do weight activities in front of a mirror and watch your form with every. single. repetition.
– Find a workout time that works for you. If you’re exhausted at the end of the day and can’t bring yourself to do anymore activity- that’s ok; look for a different time of day to work out. Maybe coming to the gym before work is an option? Maybe fit some time in on your lunch break? Maybe all you can do right now is just set a timer and get up and go for a quick walk around your office every hour or so- that will help get you started.
-We’ve also talked here on the blog about water fitness being a low impact activity. If your pain is so intense that you can’t do traditional exercises then look into our water aerobics classes.
– Give Pilates or Yoga a try. Both practices are great for helping to stretch tight muscles and build core strength. You can find our schedule of group classes here. (Also make sure to check out our post on Back Pain and Pilates)
Whatever course of action you take- we hope you take action. Like we said at the beginning of this post- back pain isn’t something you have to live with. We have resources to help you live pain free- and we’re here to help you navigate those resources. We have massage therapists and a group of wonderful Certified Personal Trainers on staff and we’d love to introduce you.
We wish you good health,
Columbia Basin Racquet Club
*This next month we’ll be covering several areas of pain: back, knee, and shoulder, so stay tuned!