If you’re reading the title of this article and thinking that it sounds highly ill-advised then clearly you recognize just what a serious problem lower back pain is and how important it is to give yourself time to recover. Training with a spine injury can be enough to permanently confine you to a wheelchair and is in no way advisable.
So what’s this article all about? Well yes it is about training despite a back injury, but it’s going to look at the things you can do that will in no way affect your spine. Training with a damaged back is of course a bad idea if you are placing any weight on your spine or creating any impact, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do. Training your back through back pain is ill advised, but if you can isolate the rest of your body then there are ways to safely carry on building muscle and burning fat. Here we will look at some of them.
First – An Important Notice
While the techniques I’m going to list here will mostly be okay for the majority of lower back pain cases, it’s impossible to treat every instance the same and some back problems may need to be approached differently than others. As such then, you should run any new training regime by your doctor first before placing yourself under any strain.
Another tip is to use a spotter. In the case of exercises like the preacher curl you shouldn’t be placing any strain on your spine because the movement is completely isolated. However getting into position and lifting the weight up in the first place can cause injury, so make sure that you have a friend to hand to help lift the weights and put them in your hand if this is the kind of training you’re thinking of engaging in. A friend can also help you if you get stuck and comment on your technique.
Finally, make sure not to push yourself. Listen to your body, and use lighter weights than you would normally so that you can maintain good posture and technique, and stop if you’re in any discomfort.
How to Train CV
If you normally burn calories by running then unfortunately this is out of the question due to the impact it causes on your knees and the shockwaves that sends through your body. If you want to do something to replace your usual treadmill training then it must be zero impact.
Unfortunately, something like cycling or using an elliptical machine may still be inappropriate as you will still be bearing weight on your spine and moving in a way that can cause too much movement in that area. Instead then you need to look at ways to take the weight off of your back while you move – and for that the supine bike is your best bet. This is a bike machine that has you leaning completely back into a chair and cycling your legs. Of course you can also mimic this yourself on the floor – lie flat on your back and rotate your legs in the air and you’ll get a good ab workout too. Depending on the nature of your back problem swimming may even be beneficial but again you should check this first.
How to Build Muscle
For building muscle you can do any sitting down movement where the weight isn’t transferred to your back in any way. Bench press or shoulder press are out of the question then, but preacher curls (or machine curls), tricep push downs (using a resistance machine), leg extensions etc. are all fine.
Resistance machines here are particularly useful as they allow you to set the weights instantly without having to lift them off the ground and because it’s impossible to drop them o yourself. To reiterate you should also make sure that the weights are on a low setting in order to avoid ‘cheating’ by throwing your whole body into the movement.
Finally some bodyweight exercises may be okay such as pull ups – but this will depend on the nature of your problem. Check with a physiotherapist whether stretching out your spine this way will improve or exacerbate the issue. The same goes for stretching.
The best thing you can do for your training though? That’s to rest up, get professional treatment and give your body the best chance of healing itself so that you can get back into action.
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Ricky Cowan is a physiotherapist and a specialist for lower back pain treatment. He likes being fit at all times and suggests useful tips to remain healthy on his blog.