When you’re in back pain, it’s hard to focus on anything else. You rest. You ice. You calculate every movement you make to make sure you don’t reaggravate your back. This may even lead you to avoid certain types of activities you enjoy. All because you want to get out and stay out of pain.
Pain avoidance is one of our most basic self-preservation instincts. When we feel pain, we know something is wrong. Unconsciously we will try to remove ourselves from the pain-causing situation.
Think of grabbing a hot pan on the stove. Immediately you feel pain in the part of your hand that is touching the pan. Instinctively you release the hot pan. Now, what happens the next time you go to grab a pan that’s on the stove? You’re going to be hesitant to grab it. Maybe you’ll even try lightly touching it before you commit to full-on grabbing ahold of the pan.
This is all an effort from our brain to keep our body out of danger. Pain equals danger. Stay away from things that cause you pain, stay out of danger. But when it comes to back pain, limiting or avoiding movement won’t keep you out of back pain.
Studies show that avoiding movement can actually delay recovery from back pain. While being active leads to a quicker recovery and lower instance of back pain down the road. In this article, we will explain the benefits of movement and give you tips on how to move more during the day.
The benefits of moving more
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, everyone can benefit from moving more. Benefits of being more active not only help in the reduction of back pain but also include:
- Weight reduction
- A decrease in chronic conditions
- Increase in energy levels
- Better sleep quality
- Improvement in mood
The Recommended Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans encourage any type of movement over no movement, but specific guidelines for adults include:
- 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity activity (walking, jogging, biking, stretching, dancing, etc).
- At least two days each week of strengthening activity (lifting weights, or body weight-bearing exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, etc).
This may look like a large time commitment, but if you divide the total amount of time out into each day, you’re committing to only 20 minutes of activity per day. Starting to move for as little as 20 minutes per day has been shown to provide all of the above-listed benefits, including a reduction in back pain.
Tips to move more during the day
Getting into a routine, especially when it comes to moving more can be difficult. To start moving more, try these tips.
Set aside 20 minutes each day to walk.
Think about a good time for you to add in more walking during the day. Do you find you have more free time in the morning, around your lunchtime, or after work? Once you figure out what time works best, make that your scheduled ‘walking time’. Here are a few places to start adding in walking during your day:
- Add in a walk during your lunchtime or breaks.
- Take walking meetings.
Regular stretching can increase your range of motion and flexibility, which in turn decreases the chances of strain on your back. Since we sit for extended periods of time, a great stretch to begin working into your routine is a hip flexor stretch.
- Set aside 5-10 minutes each day to stretch and start seeing an increase in your flexibility.
- Some other great ideas for stretching can be found in our five easy yoga stretches to ease back pain blog.
Strengthen your core.
With any type of movement, proper bracing of your core is essential to minimize strain (and potential injury) to your back. By strengthening your core muscles, you can begin protecting your back for all types of movement.
- Contracting your core helps to strengthen it by activating the muscles that stabilize your back.
- Check out this blog to learn about how to properly contract your core.
Try a new activity or workout class.
Aim to try a new activity or workout class. Not only will this help in adding to your movement minutes, but you may find a new hobby that you didn’t know you would like.
- Enlist a spouse, friend, or coworker to join you in trying a new activity.
Putting your best foot forward
Building regular movement into your day is a great way to get out and stay out of back pain. Always remember to listen to your body and begin adding in small amounts of exercise each day. If you are in severe back pain, make sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise plan.
Don’t let back pain keep you from the activities you enjoy. Start moving today to get out, and stay out of back pain. For more tips on how to add in more movement to your day, connect with one of our Telespine Health Coaches. Contact us for more information.
Steffens D, Maher CG, Pereira LS, et al. Prevention of low back pain a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2016;176(2): 199-208.
Puntumetakul R, Areeudomwong P, et al. Effect of 10-week core stabilization exercise training and detraining on pain-related outcomes in patients with clinical lumbar instability. Dovepress. 2013; 7: 1189-1199.
Waddell G, Feder G, and Lewis M. Systematic review of bed rest and advice to stay active for acute low back pain. British Journal of General Practice. 1997;47(423): 647-52.
United States Department of Health and Human Services. Current Physical Activity Guidelines. Last Updated July 17, 2019. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf. Accessed July 18, 2019.