FEELING GREAT: Keeping fit despite back pain

Human back with a visible pain
Human back with a visible pain

Got this question asked in my clinic this week that I wanted to share with you (it’s a common question I get asked often on the topic of back pain):

“Paul, I’m desperate to get back into shape after suffering with a bad back for long time. Can you continue to stay fit and active when long standing back pain still gets in the way? Physio is a great help, but I want to do more by myself while I’m receiving treatment, I’m just scared, a bit nervous and don’t know what type of exercise safe…” - Sandra, 48, Hart

I understand that the thought of doing any type of exercise at all when you’re in some form of pain might seem a little scary and worrying. You don’t want to run the risk of making it any worse incase it turns into an injury and puts you out even longer. But I’d like to put your mind at ease and let you know that just because your back is causing you issues right now, you don’t have to keep yourself stranded on the sofa until you wake up one day to find it has magically disappeared.

You see, even though physio is great and really helps to ease your pain, it can never be a full-blown cure alone. The real long-term success at overcoming things like back pain lies within what YOU do in-between and after your physio sessions.

Let me explain, most bad backs happen because they’re not strong in the first place, so in order to get your back strong your lifestyle and the types of activities you do play a huge part in your recovery. A lot of us have jobs that involve sitting at a desk all day. I know Sandra works as a teacher and her back pain came on as a result of sitting for long periods of time without regular breaks to move around, and then going home at a night to sit yet again for a few MORE hours before going to bed!

And seeing as your back isn’t made to sit, sitting puts a lot of pressure on the spine. So the long-term solution? Regular posture style exercises to increase muscle control and strength with Pilates routines - and not only does Pilates help to ease back pain, it also makes you more flexible and toned too! Win-win.

Pilates style exercises are great for people like Sandra who feel frightened and nervous about returning to exercise after a bad back, because it involves exercises designed to strengthen and control the muscles in your back - allowing you to return to other types of exercises like running, cycling and gym classes much quicker!

But let me just point out that there’s a huge difference between “exercising” (running, golf, cycling), and doing exercises like Pilates.

Things like running are great to improve your cardio and the length of time you can maintain being active without feeling tired, but without strengthening exercises like Pilates, there’s a greater risk of injury. So we must build a strong foundation first, and then add in other activities.

So the answer to Sandra’s question is - yes, you certainly can continue to remain fit and active even if you’re suffering with back pain.

The solution lies within the long-term commitment you make to the other things you do outside of your Physio treatment and in-between sessions. Be consistent with doing Pilates style exercises for three months, and then when you notice a difference you can start adding in other gentle exercises as an addition to make sure your bad back doesn’t creep up on you again!

For more tips like this for easing back pain just go to my website: www.paulgoughphysio.com/back-pain to pick up a free special report with 9 top tips to keep active with less back pain.