7 months ago

Staying Active To Beat Back Pain - The Importance Of Not Being Idle 

Exercising when you have back pain may seem like a crazy thing to do but staying active is vital if you're going to beat it. 

staying active

When you live with persistent back pain it can be hard to know what to do for the best. 

And the thought of exercising when you are in pain may seem like an especially silly thing to do. 

I mean why would you drag yourself off the couch to exercise when your back's already in pieces? ​

Surely that's not a good idea, right? 

And won't exercising when you're already in pain only cause you more damage​? 

And more pain? ​

Well for certain types of back pain​ you might be right.

For instance, if you're suffering from acute pain because you've thrown your back out or suffered an injury then feel free to stay on the couch.

Because these types of temporary pain need rest to allow your body to heal before attempting any exercise.

However, this is not the case when your back pain is chronic and persistent. 

So if you suffer from non-specific everyday back pain then staying active is vital to keep your back strong and healthy. 

​And this is great news I think.

Because it means you can do something about your pain, rather than being at it's mercy.

So read on to discover why staying active is so important and which activities and sports are safe for you to participate in.

The Dangers Of Living A Sedentary Lifestyle

dangers of living a sedentary lifestyle

Don't be this guy

It can be so tempting to take things easy when you're having a bad pain day.

However, this is the worst thing you can do when your pain is chronic.

Let me explain.

Now I'm sure you're all familiar with the phrase "Use it or lose it".

And this is never more true than when you are speaking about your body.

Because it turns out that being lazy can be pretty dangerous!

The medical term for this is 'Disuse Syndrome', which basically covers the effects on the body and mind that physical inactivity causes.

And these effects are bad.

For instance, in 2009 the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed physical inactivity as the 4th leading risk factor for deaths globally (responsible for 6%) placing it only behind high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood glucose levels.

Graph courtesy of the World Health Organisation, 2009.

And it was also found to lower life expectancy, with WHO estimating it was responsible for 9% of all premature deaths.

So pretty serious stuff right?

And on top of that, a lack of activity will also make your back pain a hell of a lot worse.

So here's a (long) list of problems that physical inactivity can cause you:

  • It causes your muscles to shrink and weaken, which will make you less mobile and physically able.
  • This muscle weakness also means your lower back has less support.
  • Your bones will lose density, making you more prone to injury.
  • It leads to a loss of flexibility throughout your body, leading to muscle soreness, stiffness, and a restricted range of motion.
  • Your body takes in less oxygen, which leaves you feeling tired and lethargic.
  • It also causes the body to produce fewer red blood cells which reduces the amount of oxygen being delivered to the tissues and leads to more inflammation (and in turn more pain and stiffness).
  • Your circulation alters meaning less oxygen and nutrients get delivered to your muscles, joints, and tissues, leaving them unable to heal, repair and stay healthy.
  • It slows down your nervous system.
  • And also causes problems with the functioning of your internal organs.
  • It can lead to digestion problems and obesity, which puts more strain on your back.
  • Your memory, concentration, and focus all suffer.
  • It can make you more prone to depression and anxiety.
  • And give you problems getting a good night's sleep.
  • It can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • You have more chance of developing type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and breast cancer.
  • And it can increase the risk of dying prematurely.

Grim reading I'm sure you'll agree.

But these are all great reasons to get off our backsides and stay active!

The Benefits Of Staying Active For Your Back

Benefits of staying active

Our bodies are designed to move, and we need to keep them moving to stay healthy and pain-free.

However, in today's world of technology it's far too easy to fall into the trap of spending too much time on our backsides.

Whether that be in front of your computer, in your car, or on the couch having a Netflix binge, this lack of movement is terrible for your back.

Especially if you already suffer from persistent back pain.

On the other hand, getting into a routine of regular activity is great for you.

So much so that increasing your physical activity is actually a part of the current international guidelines for managing chronic lower back pain.

And here's why:

  • Staying active will reduce the pain that you are in.
  • It strengthens your muscles which will bring more support for your lower back.
  • Your joints will have a greater range of motion, lowering the strain on your back.
  • You'll increase your overall flexibility, which will improve your posture, relieve pressure on your back, and lessen muscle pain and tension.
  • It helps to keep your weight under control, so your back has less of a load to carry.
  • Your circulation will improve, which is vital for delivering oxygen and nutrients to all areas of the body to help them repair, recover, and stay healthy.
  • It boosts your immune system.
  • The release endorphins you get with exercise will make you feel happier and also work as a natural painkiller.
  • You'll be less prone to depression and anxiety.
  • It'll increase your confidence in what your body is capable of doing, helping you to do more in life.
  • The improvements in your mood after exercise will give you a positive outlook, which is vital when dealing with chronic pain.
  • It'll help you to sleep better, which is the time your body heals and repairs itself from the day's stresses.

Not a bad list right?

So it's a good idea to become more active i your daily life.

And it has even been found that exercise can bring greater pain improvements than pain medication in certain studies.

So it can lower your need for and reliance on drugs too!

Which Type Of Activities Should You Be Doing?

Stay active to beat back pain

You don't need to go to these extremes!

Now by saying you need to stay active I don't mean you need to start running marathons here.

In fact, that's probably the worst thing you could try to do! 

But just exercising to a moderate intensity 3-4 times per week has been shown to produce a wide range of health benefits for those of us with persistent back pain. 

These benefits include less pain, better movement and range of motion, plus improvements to your mood and overall well-being.

So you really need to stay active.

And when it comes to which activities you should be doing, try to focus on the following areas:

  • Exercises that strengthen the muscles that support your lower back, such as your hips, glutes, hamstrings, abs, and deep-lying core muscles.
  • Activities that stretch your body and keep you flexible.
  • Exercise that helps you to maintain your aerobic fitness.

As a good mixture of these 3 types of activities is the best combination to help you get rid of daily back pain for good.

However, before you begin I just want to point out a couple of things.

Firstly, you need to keep in mind that the name of the game is to always exercise to a moderate intensity.

As this has been shown time and again to be the best intensity for people with persistent back pain.

For instance, in a 2011 study it was found that both lack of activity and intense activity increased the risk of lower back pain.

However, moderate activity on the other hand was found to reduce the risk of lower back pain.

So it's all about finding that sweet spot and not overdoing things.

And finally, always consult with your doctor or physical therapist before trying a new exercise or activity to make sure it's safe for you to do.

The Best Exercises & Activities For People With Back Pain

Swimming is a great low-impact activity for people with back pain.

Now you know why it's so important to stay active it's time to discover which types of activities and exercises you should be doing to help your back pain.

Now I'm not a doctor, but the advice and information I give here and throughout this site has been tested and found in scientific studies.

And as a consequence it's what's recommended as safe and appropriate for people with chronic lower back pain.

So here's a list of activities that have been found to be good for people with back pain.

And you can click on any of the links to get more information on why it's good for you and how to get started.

There is a mixture in there of stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises.

So you should be able to find a few you enjoy that you can get stuck in to.

And these vary in intensity and difficulty so you should be able to find something you can do whatever your level of fitness and pain is.

So have a read, pick a few that sound good to you, and get active!

What Staying Active Looks Like For Me

My happy place.

To give you an idea of how to tailor these activities into your own life, I thought I'd share what I typically do in a week.

Firstly I walk everywhere and also stretch out my body for a minute or two when I wake up and before going to bed at night.

I also do 30 minutes of core-strengthening exercises and stretches every day to keep my core strong and my back supported.

On top of that I swim 5-6 times per week for 30 minutes each time.

This is just gentle breaststroke, but I find the combination of being in the water and the aerobic exercise makes me feel great and keeps my muscles loose and free.

I find this combination helps to keep me out of pain and on top of my problem.

Now you may not need to do as much as this (or have the time to).

But try adding a one or two activities to begin with and see what difference that makes for you.

As through trial and error you will eventually find a routine that suits you, and once you do you'll never look back.

Rounding Up

Hopefully after reading through this article you will be encouraged to become more active.

Because it really is a crucial part of managing persistent back pain.

As not only does it reduce pain, it'll also keeps you strong, supple, and physically able.

It can also improve your mood and increase your confidence in your own body.

And this combination means you can deal with chronic pain in a far more positive way.

In fact, it might even get rid of your pain for good.

I've included a wide range of activities that you can try here, so find what works for you and stick to it.

So good luck and let me know how you get on in the comments below.

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Daniel

I'm a psychology graduate and a veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help people learn how to fight back against persistent back pain just like I have.

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