If you’re struggling with chronic pain, exercise can be an important piece of your treatment and recovery — however, it’s important not to overdo it. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, low-impact exercises can offer many benefits without further causing further injury to your spine and worsening your back pain.
Maintaining a regular exercise program can help alleviate pain in your neck or back by:
- Lowering the potential chance and/or severity of painful flare-ups in the future.
- Keeping the spine functional and mobile, limiting disability caused by chronic pain. Becoming sedentary and inactive with chronic back pain can actually worsen the mobility and functionality of your back long-term.
- Burning calories to help achieve and maintain the optimal weight for your body, which can reduce pressure on the spine.
- Increasing production of endorphins, which act as a natural painkiller and can elevate mood to relieve symptoms of depression.
Here are some simple, low-impact exercises that you can try:
One of the simplest and most effective low-impact exercises is walking. Try taking a daily walk around your neighborhood or park. You can start with 20-30 minutes, and increase your time as your stamina improves.
An ideal low-impact exercise is swimming. The buoyancy takes the pressure off your joints, and the resistance can help maintain or build muscle tone. Swimming laps is one of the best full-body exercises you can do. However, stay away from strokes that force you to twist or rotate your spine, that can exacerbate your back pain.
Yoga is a fantastic way to stretch and strengthen your muscles, as well as improve balance and flexibility throughout your body. There are many different difficulty levels of yoga, so do some research and find one that is suited to your skills and limitations. Restorative yoga for example, is a lower-impact type of yoga that focuses on relaxing the mind while stretching the body. Learn more about the different types of yoga and try an online class here.
4. Stationary Bike/Bike Riding
Riding a stationary bike is a great way to get some low-impact cardio. A stationary bike can provide you with the benefits of cycling with less potential for injury due to road hazards. You can start with 10 minutes daily and gradually increase your time or resistance. If you feel you’re up to the challenge of a longer outdoor ride, you can try out a slow speed bike ride on an even surface.
Typically, a 20 to 30-minute workout, done 3 to 5 times a week is recommended to achieve aerobic and cardiovascular benefits. For severe pain, you may want to start with shorter intervals of exercise (5 to 10-minutes), and gradually work up to a more intensive routine.
These are just a sample of low-impact exercises that can help relieve pain. Make sure you talk to your doctor or physical therapist prior to starting any exercise program to ensure you are cleared to exercise. This is especially true if you are currently recovering from surgery or undergoing pain management treatment. Reach out to The PainSmith team if you have any questions about low-impact exercises or other pain management treatments that you should consider.