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How to Train Around Lower Back Pain

Tips from a Sports Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist! Have you been suffering from lower back pain? Who said you had to stop exercising?!

Exercising with lower back pain can still occur in a safe manner. Keep reading below to find out common causes and types of back injuries whilst training, including how you can safely train around pain.

This blog post is written by Sports Physiotherapist Stathis, who works out of our North Sydney location at Infinite Health Group.

Stathis sees many patients a week that have injured their back at the gym or in group classes, and always want to continue training without making their injury or back pain worse.

A common mistake people make with this condition, Stathis mentioned:

"Not giving your spine a chance to rest and heal from the exercises that cause stress and harm to the lower back. But then, not training around the injury properly in order to maintain strength and fitness levels to enable a quicker return to training" – Sports Physiotherapist, Stathis

So, hopefully by the end of this blog post you'll know what to do, so let's get into it!

Causes of lower back pain:

Sudden injuries typically happen from suddenly overloading structures in the back, which can include the sacroiliitis joint, a critical link between your lower spine and pelvis. Overuse injuries commonly occur from repetitive tasks and prolonged poor positioning.

Common types of lower back pain: Muscular strains and ligament sprains: Inadequate capacity to deal with demands of load is typically the cause of these issues.

Building/protruding/herniated/degenerated Discs: Commonly caused when the muscles and ligaments of the lower back have failed to support the spine and more force is applied to the disc. Sciatica: Occurs when the sciatic nerve is influenced by structures of the lower back, resulting in pain into/past the buttock region.

Caused by sudden impacts, repetitive strain, or poor back posture, these injuries cause stiffness and pain in the lower back when your joints are moved beyond their natural limit.

So can I exercise with an injury like this?... Won’t exercise make it worse?

A common misconception is that you should stop exercising and moving all together! This is typically not the case and can even be detrimental to your recovery. In our opinion, continued movement is essential to recovery! Treatment is typically aimed at restoring mobility and strength… which… you guessed it… involves exercises!

How you can safely train around your lower back pain Upper body machine exercises: Machine style exercises which involve you pushing or pulling weight are typically less demanding exercises on your lower back, and can allow you to continue to train your chest (push) and back (pull) muscles.

Examples include: - Pull: Seated row machine, seated bicep curls, seated rear-delt machine fly's.

- Push: Seated Chest/shoulder press and tricep extension machine.

Core training: Ground based pilates and core exercises are typically less demanding on the lower back and encourage anterior trunk stability which can work to offset lower back pain.

Examples include:

- Bird/Dog

- Glute bridges

- Deadbugs

Cardio Training: Cycling or the cross-trainer is a great exercise to maintain your aerobic capacity/endurance whilst suffering from lower back pain.

It is important to ensure that with cycling, the seat is set at an appropriate position to ensure the back is not compromised. Ideal bike height: Hip flexed (bent) at 40-65 degrees Knee 30-40 degrees from complete extension (straight)

Who to see for the injury:

A multidisciplinary approach from both physiotherapists and exercise physiologists will provide you with the best outcomes for recovering from your back pain, whilst educating you on how to continue to exercise safely around your injury during recovery.

A physiotherapist will work to help ease pain through manual therapy techniques and together with an exercise physiologist, will work to educate you and establish an exercise program which you can safely partake in alongside your recovery plan.

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