If you suffer from a lower back condition your chiropractor will likely recommend exercise as part of your treatment program. What should you do if your exercise regimen exacerbates your lower back condition? Should you work through the pain?
Soreness vs. pain related to a lower back condition
Before we talk about whether you should work through your lower back pain, let’s quickly look at the difference between soreness and pain related to a lower back condition. Minor soreness is a natural result of exercise, and it is especially prominent amongst those who are new to exercising.
Soreness is characterised by a dull, aching feeling—and your back muscles may also feel tender or rigid. It is important to note that soreness from exercise typically subsides within 24 to 72 hours.
In contrast, pain related to a lower back injury is your body’s way of telling you that you are doing something wrong. This pain is typically moderate to severe, and often results in restrictions to your day-to-day functioning. So if you have to adjust your daily schedule as a result of lower back pain after exercise, this pain is likely related to a lower back condition.
Should you work through your lower back pain?
If a particular exercise is exacerbating your lower back pain, you should not try to work through the pain. This is because, as previously mentioned, pain is typically your body’s way of telling you that you’re doing something wrong. Your pain may be alerting you to any of the following:
- You are performing the particular exercise wrong
- The exercise you are performing is not designed for your lower back condition
- You have another injury or lower back condition you are not aware of
So if you are experiencing pain caused by exercising, stop right away. Next, schedule an appointment with your chiropractor for a consultation to review your symptoms and exercise program.
When it comes to dealing with lower back pain caused by exercise, the goal is typically to work around, not through the pain. For example, if your lower back pain is made worse by running, you can substitute this activity for a low-impact aerobic exercise like riding an exercise bike. Your chiropractor can help you find alternatives for whatever exercise is troubling you.
Additionally, water therapy is also an effective option for many people who struggle with pain caused by exercise. Water therapy can help relieve the stress and strain on your lower back structures, and may also be performed in a heated pool for additional pain relief.
Top 3 Self-Care Protocols for Lower Back Pain
Basic remedies applied at home can be effective for treating mild or acute pain from muscle strain, as well as reducing the effects of chronic, severe pain. Self-care is administered by the individual and can easily be adjusted. These methods include:
Short rest period. Many episodes of lower back pain can be improved by briefly avoiding strenuous activity. It is not advised to rest for more than a few days, as too much inactivity can make healing more difficult.
Activity modification. One variant of resting is to stay active but avoid activities and positions that aggravate the pain. For example, if long periods of sitting in a car or at a desk make the pain worse, then set a timer to get up every 20 minutes and walk around or gently stretch. If standing makes the pain worse, avoid chores that require standing such as washing dishes at the sink. Avoiding, or minimising, activities and positions that worsen the pain will help prevent or reduce painful back spasms and allow for a better healing environment.
Heat/ice therapy. Heat from a warm bath or a hot water bottle can relax tense muscles and improve blood flow. Increased blood flow brings nutrients and oxygen that muscles need to heal and stay healthy. If the lower back is painful due to inflammation, ice or cold packs can be used to reduce swelling. It’s important to protect the skin while applying heat and ice to prevent tissue damage.
Alternating heat and ice can be especially helpful when returning to activity: applying heat before activities helps relax muscles, allowing for better flexibility and mobility; applying ice after activity reduces the chances of an area becoming irritated and swollen from exercise.
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