Low Back Pain: Preventing Aches after Working Out

Low back pain. Tips to help with back pain. Barbell Club at Pittsburgh Fitness Project.

Maybe you pushed yourself a little too hard in the gym and your back is feeling sore. Maybe your back aches after a long day of sitting at your desk. Guess what – You’re not alone. It’s actually estimated that about 80% of the population experience back pain at some point in their life. Consider these few tips to prevent these occurrences in and outside of the gym.

Preventing Low Back Pain

1.Make sure to increase exercise frequency and load gradually, especially after a break

This one is probably the most important but often neglected. Rapid increases in training load (such as frequency, intensity, and weight) can increase the chances of overuse. This is because of the Load > Tissue Tolerance/Capacity. It’s important to give your body time to adapt to your fitness regime. Listening to your body and progressing at a steady pace is key to preventing injury.

2. To avoid low back pain, don’t neglect the upper back and hips

Our daily habits outside of the gym are incredibly important. If we develop stiffness in the areas above and below the lumbar spine (think prolonged sitting), the lower back has to work a bit harder to pick up the slack.
While stretching the low back might help for temporary relief, try spending some additional time in your warm-up to focus on the rest of the body, especially the upper back (thoracic spine) and hips. We recommend dynamic stretching (active movements where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion) before your workout. This is how we structure all of our power hour class warm-ups!

3. Check your form

Spines are meant to move. Flexion (rounding) of the low back alone is not inherently bad. Flexion under load can potentially increase strain when the load exceeds tissue capacity, as mentioned above. Maintaining good alignment while lifting (not over rounding or overarching the spine), coupled with proper breathing and bracing, allows us to maintain a pressurized, stable core to support the back. This is especially important for exercises like deadlifts, squats, planks, and kettlebells swings.

4. Modify movements when necessary

For example: Let’s say barbell squats have been causing you discomfort. There are various ways you can modify the movement such as decreasing the weight, limiting depth to a pain-free range, or performing at a slower tempo. Another option is to substitute single-leg exercises such as lunges and split squats in a comfortable range. When in doubt, never hesitate to ask one of our trainers for appropriate exercise modifications.

(This is not medical advice and does not apply to severe or prolonged back pain. In such cases, consider seeking out a qualified medical professional for clearance before returning to exercise.)

Looking for More Low Back Pain Relief?

We know back pain can affect your life in so many ways. If these tips aren’t seeming to help, there may be something else going on. Schedule a session with our Recovery Team to see if they can help work out the issue!

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