Exercising with a bad back


Practically any athlete can relate to the frustration of dealing with a sore back. Trying to exercise through sore muscles is extremely irritating, and the slightest tweak can cause even more pain to occur, meaning more time spent trying to recover. However, there are plenty forms of physical activity that can be safe for athletes dealing with a minor back injury. If you’re determined not to let a sore back get the better of your workout routine, here are some essential exercises you can engage in that have been proven not to be too stressful on your body, and may even help prevent future back injuries:


Many athletes are so focused on tackling more extreme types of workouts that it’s easy to forget the essential exercise practically anyone with a bad back can perform: walking. Sure, a brisk stroll around the block isn’t going to make up for the usual cardiovascular workout you give yourself, but it’s certainly a better solution than sitting on the couch and icing your back. According to the Mayo Clinic, implementing daily sessions of walking is an adequate enough activity to help your body in several ways, ranging from lowering your blood pressure to strengthening your bones as well as improving your overall mood.

Walking has also been clinically proven to be an efficient source of chronic back pain relief. Researchers from Tel Aviv University analyzed 52 patients who were experiencing lower back pain who participated in a study that focused on walking as a sufficient resource for back pain relief. The walking program implemented for the subjects was simple, and included two to three walking sessions per week, with each session between 20 and 40 minutes of total walking time. The researchers noted that during these periods of active walking, the group’s relationship between the abdominal and back muscles began to improve. The colleagues ultimately concluded that walking helped the subjects improve significantly in all areas of assessment, including pain management and injury prevention.

Stationary cycling

When you’re trying to stay active while dealing with back pain, finding an activity that’s both stimulating and low-impact is the most important piece of the puzzle. Cycling is one of the best examples of such a workout, as it combines strenuous cardiovascular activity with being extremely easy on your joints and muscles, especially in the back. Stationary bikes are even better for athletes trying to work out with back pain, because with no turmoil from the road or focus on balance necessary, the spine receives less stress, allowing for aerobic exercise to take place without interruptions of pain.

Spine-health.com states that while stationary cycles are a beneficial workout option for anyone dealing with back pain, there are certain precautions recovering athletes should take to avoid further complications. Posture is an important component of cycling, and if you’re hunched over peddling for a long period of time, your back will most likely begin to feel some pain. Before riding on the bike, make sure that you’ve adjusted the cycle so it appropriately fits your body. Try to keep your chest up and neck straight, but also be sure to switch positions periodically during your riding session. Remember, too much time spent pedaling in one position is a big no-no when it comes to cycling with back pain.


Getting into the pool and swimming for a few laps is a sufficient rehabilitative exercise for anyone dealing with sore muscles, but can be specifically useful for athletes trying to work out with a bad back. The New York Times reports that the main reason staying active in the water is beneficial for back pain relief is the buoyancy of being in the pool, so you can build up a sweat without putting much stress upon your joints. Aquatic exercises are also well known for their ability to help strengthen the core muscles within your back, but just as with cycling, there’s definitely a proper technique to adhere to so you don’t add any extra strain to your back.

For starters, perform the types of swimming exercises that don’t cause you any pain. If a lap doing the breaststroke doesn’t seem to produce discomfort, stick with that. Otherwise, go with swimming techniques that involve being on your back or on your side. If you’re coming up for air, roll your body to the side instead of whipping your neck up to the surface, as sudden movements like that are quick ways to tweak your spine. Don’t be hesitant to use swimming accessories if your back doesn’t seem up to typical swimming techniques. Using a paddle board or even noodles can still help you achieve a sufficient cardio workout in the pool.


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