You’re a regular at the gym, training every day and then a back injury throws you off your game. Even if you’ve been recuperating for weeks, it’s normal to be skeptical about getting back to your routine. Here’s Phase 1 of pacing yourself towards full-recovery. Check out Phase 2 here.
1) Stretch It
The key is to take things slow and be patient. “It’s important to keep moving to ensure that your back pain doesn’t worsen. So, unless a doctor or physiotherapist recommends it, confining yourself to the bed may not be the best thing,” says Steve Tolan, Head of Practice, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, London.
In the recovery phase, start with gentle stretching exercises. Stretching improves movement patterns and decreases the chance of developing over-use injuries. “Elongating the muscle and fascia through stretching improves circulation, increases elasticity of the muscle, increases oxygen to the muscles, and helps the body repair,” says Carol Michaels, a New Jersey-based personal trainer and the founder and creator of Recovery Fitness. She recommends stretching exercises two to five times a day in the beginning, while using smooth, controlled, non-jerky movements.
Stretching works like any other exercise. You warm up your muscles and then start off with active stretching, which lasts a couple of seconds. After that you alternate between active and static (where the stretch is held for over 10 seconds). “Be mindful of the movement and its purpose. Modify the stretches and your flexibility routine to take into account your day-to-day pain level,” she says.
There are certain measures that should be taken in order to avoid another back injury. These include simple things like avoiding any lifts that have you bending over at the waist, as this can create an unstable load onto the lower back discs causing an injury. Also, heavy lifting such as deadlifts and kettlebells will put too much pressure on the lumbar discs.
2) Strengthen The Core
It is important to strengthen the muscles that support the spine, particularly the lower back and abs to increase core stability. This will improve the support system around the low back and rebuild the abdominal muscles.
Abdominal exercises, planks, back extensions, and regular cardio with proper posture help protect the spine.
On the other hand, walking tones and increases the endurance of the core muscles and legs, and helps maintain bone density in the lower back, hips and legs.
In the end, remember that fear of worsening the back pain may tempt you to avoid exercise, but this will prove to be your biggest impediment to a full recovery. Besides, in Phase 2 we have the perfect exercise routine for when you feel up and ready to take on an intense workout again.