Exercising with Lower Back Pain: Should You Work Through the Pain?

exercising with lower back pain

So, your lower back is aching. Perhaps it is a dull annoying ache or maybe you are experiencing sharp, shooting pains with certain movements or it is painful to stand too long. Part of you thinks you need to lay off the workouts, but others are telling you to work through the pain because movement will make it better.

If you are struggling with what direction you should go, you are not alone. In fact, back pain is the second most common issue that adults in the United States face and a whopping 80% of people will experience lower back pain over the course of their life.

There are positives and negatives for working out through some pain and taking a break when you need it. Figuring out which one is for you is completely personal and may take some trial and error before you figure out what works the best for your body.

In this article, we will take a look at when it is okay to work through lower back pain, when you need to rest, and some of the best ways you can treat your lower back pain in a safe, healthy, and natural way.

When It’s Okay to Workout with Lower Back Pain

Working out with lower back pain is possible but let us break it down further. Lower back pain and lower back soreness are different. When you have a sore lower back, you feel tenderness, tightness, or a dull ache that is uncomfortable yet not painful.

You can move around, walk, and sit without higher levels of discomfort and the “pain” does not affect your daily functioning to a substantial degree. Essentially, you can go about your day-to-day life, but with just a little annoyance from your lower back.

  • When your pain is mild
  • When your pain does not significantly affect the quality of your life
  • When your pain is a dull ache
  • When your pain just feels like an annoyance

When you have lower back pain, your pain will feel moderate to severe. The pain will indeed affect the way you function during the day. Sitting, walking, standing, exercising, and moving in certain directions may feel quite painful. Overall, your quality of life is suffering, you may be complaining, and pain medications are your new best friend.

How to Ease Lower Back Aching

woman stretching on a yoga mat

If what you are feeling is lower back soreness, working out is generally okay. You can walk, ride a bike, swim, lift, or whatever your workout preference it.

But keep in mind that if the particular exercise you are doing is causing more lower back aching in the moment or after the workout, it is best to stop that exercise or make adjustments. The aching is likely your body’s way of telling you that it does not like what you are doing, or you are doing the exercise wrong.

High impact moves are typical culprits for lower back aching. If you do HIIT or like to run, but experience that annoying ache, change up your impact. Swap running for walking intervals or the elliptical. Stop HIIT and try a low impact aerobics class.

It is also great to include yoga, Pilates, and stretching into your workouts as well. These exercises will stretch out sore muscles, release tension, and be gentle on your back.

When It’s Not Okay to Workout with Lower Back Pain

woman getting a massage

On the other hand, there are times when working out through lower back pain is not advised. Like we mentioned above, if your lower back pain is moderate to severe and affecting the quality of your everyday life, exercising through it in the same way as you were doing will likely not help the pain. In actuality, it is probably going to make the pain worse.

When you find yourself in this position, incorporating some home remedies, seeing a doctor, and visiting a professional Wasilla chiropractor or a chiropractor near your area is the best course of action.

You want to make sure your lower back pain is not coming from a serious underlying condition. Once you have anything serious ruled out, you can then seek natural and holistic back pain relief options.

Some great back pain relief options are:

  • Rest
  • Walking
  • Heat and ice
  • Low impact exercise
  • Stretch
  • Keep good posture
  • Natural anti-inflammatories (turmeric)
  • Acupuncture
  • Spinal manipulations
  • Yoga
  • Massages

Resting is a good idea when your pain is bad, but you don’t want to put yourself on bed rest because that can increase your lower back pain. It will make your back feel tighter and stiffer and will make the pain worse. Instead, rest your back from high impact activities, don’t pick up heavy items, and take it easy in the gym or maybe skip workouts for a few days.

One of the best exercises for back pain is walking. It can keep you active and moving, loose, and help your pain. Yoga and other low impact exercises are also great to incorporate after a few days of taking it easy. After a workout, ice or heat your lower back to soothe any sore and tight muscles. Ice packs, heating pads, or warm baths are all great options.

Massages, acupuncture, and spinal manipulations from a chiropractor are good options when other at-home remedies just aren’t cutting it. These more intensive therapies can target the root cause of your lower back pain effectively and efficiently. These options, especially spinal adjustments, can ease mild to severe back pain. Your chiropractor may also include massages, physical therapy, and other conventional forms of treatment for back pain like heat and ice.

Final Say

In the end, working out through lower back pain is up to each person’s individual symptoms and experiences. The best thing you can do is listen to your body and what it is trying to tell you. You will know when your pain is mild and when the pain is so severe you are having trouble making it through the day.

Switching to low impact workouts, stretching, focusing on your posture, and using heat and ice to soothe sore muscles are all-natural pain alleviators that will help your lower back pain. If you feel like you need more assistance, seek medical attention and visit a chiropractor or certified acupuncturist.

Stock Photo from Maridav / Shutterstock

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Dr. Brent Wells

Written by Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is one of the leading chiropractors in Anchorage who believes in treating people the way he would want to be treated. Born and raised in Southern California, Dr. Wells received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nevada and his Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine degree from Western States Chiropractic College. He, his wife Coni, and their three children live in and enjoy the great outdoors in Alaska. Dr. Wells volunteers for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation and can be found hiking or rollerblading when he isn’t playing his guitar.

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