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 You are doing it! You are getting yourself in the best shape of your life. Summer 2021 is going to be the year that your beach bod is cut, chiseled, and at its best. You are unstoppable. You thoughtfully and carefully pack everything into your gym bag the night before. You have your water bottle, shaker bottle with protein powder already in it, your towel, and your change of clothes for after. You are locked and loaded with everything in your car. At 6:00 am, you almost hit the snooze button on your alarm, but no! You get yourself up, caffeinated, and ready! It is time to own the day! You make it to the gym (great job!) and get through your cardio warm-up. You make your way to the free weights for a lifting session, and it hits you… your back. Almost out of nowhere, your back feels like it got hit by a ton of bricks, and you can’t, simply can NOT continue working out. What gives?

Back Pain While Exercising

To be completely honest, your back is comprised of a whole lot of muscles layered on top of your spine, rib cage, sacrum, and all your connective tissue. While it appears like a flat surface, there is actually a great deal of anatomy up in there. The cause of back pain while lifting weights could be from any number of things. For example, your lower back pain while exercising is probably a completely different issue and cause than your upper back pain while exercising. We have outlined four common causes of lower (and upper) back pain while exercising below. 

YOUR BACK IS COMPENSATING FOR A WEAK CORE

The simplest explanation for back pain while lifting weights (usually lower back pain) is that your back muscles are compensating for a weak core. This means your abdominal muscles are not pulling their weight (literally), so your lower back is stuck doing all of the extra work, quickly resulting in lower back pain while exercising.

Luckily, the solution to this problem is quite simple. You need to strengthen your core. This is both a long-term and short-term strategy. For the long-term, you will need to make a conscious effort to target and exercise the abdominal muscles. For the immediate and short-term, you will need to do some ab work before lifting any weights. For example, holding a plank position (with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders) will fire up your abs and prepare them to be an active part of any lifting or exercise you may be doing.

YOUR BACK MUSCLES ARE STRAINED OR INJURED

Another reason that you may be experiencing upper (or lower) back pain while lifting weights or exercising is that you are simply overdoing it. You may have strained or injured back muscles. If this is the case, you need to listen to your body and give yourself a break. When you exercise to the point of soreness, what you are actually experiencing is your muscle fibers tearing. (Even though it sounds scary, this is totally normal). When your muscles recover, the fibers heal back together (usually stronger than they were before). If you don’t allow ample time for recovery before working out, you will experience back pain while lifting weights. If the soreness doesn’t dissipate within a few days, you may be dealing with an injury. If this is the case, you should contact your doctor or a health care professional for further advice.

YOU MAY HAVE AN INJURED SPINAL DISC

Your spine is your central structural element in your entire body. It is comprised of bones, also known as vertebrae (24 of them to be exact). In between the bones are discs, with are softer and more flexible than bone matter. These discs allow your spine to move freely in all directions.

If you move too fast, in the wrong way, or apply force with contact to one of your discs, it can be bumped out of place or injured. If this happens, you will definitely experience lower or upper back pain while exercising. Sometimes injuries of this nature will self-resolve, but if you are still in pain after a couple of days, contact your provider.

YOU MAY BE EXPERIENCING SCIATICA

Your sciatic nerve is a massive nerve that runs from your lower back all the way down the backs of your legs, ending at the tops of each of your feet. When pressure is applied to your sciatic nerve (which can occur from a bulging disc, impact, or other natural causes – hello, pregnancy, we are looking at you), you are going to feel excruciating, pinching sensations that may momentarily cripple you from being able to stand or walk.

Sometimes the solution is to invest in better footwear or spend more time warming up before hitting the weights. Remember that impact is a major cause of sciatic nerve pain, so you want to think about providing a softer cushion for your joints. (This can be accomplished with new and better-quality footwear and knee braces.)

You also may find that heat and cold therapy help treat and prevent sciatic nerve pain. You can take a long, hot bath, followed by a cold shower (or ice bath, if you are feeling ballsy). This will increase the blood flow to that nerve and help prevent it from getting pinched or impacted. Another way to keep sciatica in check is to be more conscious of your posture throughout the day. Make sure you sit up straight while working at a computer all day, and try to keep your spine well-aligned when you are lying down to sleep at night. If you are a side sleeper, place a pillow between your knees.


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December 18, 2020 FitnessInjury Recovery0

While an injury may bench you from certain athletic activities, there are many low impact workouts and exercises that can keep you in shape and help speed up your recovery. If you are wondering how to speed up your ACL or hamstring injury recovery time, we are here to tell you that many of the exercises you likely already enjoy fall into the category of low impact exercises! Also, make no mistake, low impact does NOT mean easy. 

Suffering an injury can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. Training in the COVID-19 era, after several months of lockdowns and interruptions to our everyday lives, has left many with a higher propensity to get hurt. The more we stay put and the more we sit, the less we elevate our heart rate. The less blood flow we have to our joints, the more likely we are to get injured. No matter what level of pandemic restrictions are in place where you reside, make sure you dedicate time every day (and every hour, if possible) to move your body around. This will not only help you to stay in shape but will also help keep your joints healthy.

WHAT IS A LOW IMPACT WORKOUT?

To understand the benefits of low impact exercises, you must first know what they are. Low impact neither refers to how little your waistline is impacted nor how much muscle mass is gained. Phew! What a relief! So, where, then, is impact minimized?

Your joints! You can see all of the results that you usually see from exercising without the abuse and wear and tear on your body. Let’s face it, without healthy and fully functioning joints, you are going to be warming that bench indefinitely!

Joints get worn out both by overuse and as a natural part of aging. In ideal circumstances, all of the tissue that is damaged within a joint will naturally regenerate. Suppose you are an avid athlete with a training focus geared toward one sport (for example, a pitcher for a baseball team). In that case, you may experience pain, injury, or deterioration in your elbow joint. If you continue to train, even when the tissue has depleted, it will not have proper time to regenerate. Similarly, as we age, that very same tissue begins to wear down naturally and takes longer to heal and replenish. This is why you should cross-train with low impact exercises and give your joints a break so that they can recover.

So, without further adieu, our top three low impact workouts to help keep you in shape and for injury recovery and rehabilitation are yoga, swimming, and cycling. All three are excellent exercises to get your blood pumping without exerting much force on any of your joints. Read on to learn why we chose each of the three and how they can aid your road to injury recovery.

YOGA

Yoga is at the top of the list because who, especially in 2020, doesn’t love an exercise that also eases your anxiety? #amirite?? With yoga, you can improve both your physical and your mental well-being. By intentionally pairing your breath with your movement, you will increase your blood flow to your joints, which will help in the healing effort of any injury you may have.

Yoga is also a great way to target, activate, and workout your stabilizer muscle groups, which don’t typically get a ton of use otherwise. Your stabilizers offer a tremendous amount of support to all of your joints, so this may help you avoid injury in high impact sports.

You may also find that yoga can improve your flexibility and overall sense of well-being. While it may seem a bit “woo woo” for some, we are willing to bet that most serious athletes would find yoga to be far more challenging than expected. It is a great, low-impact way to stay in shape while you are rehabilitating any injury. An hour of yoga burns roughly 400 calories. If you are into hot yoga, that number can increase or even double.

Related: 

Yoga Physical Therapy: Healing From Within

SWIMMING

Another tremendous low-impact cardio workout is swimming. Exercising in water is fantastic because it not only provides resistance, helping you to build up muscle mass, but it also allows your motions to be fluid and weightless. This helps remove the impact from your joints. Imagine running on pavement. When your foot hits the ground with force, that sends a pressure shockwave through your foot, ankle, knee, and hip joints. That source of pressure can be damaging over time and can worsen an existing injury.

Now imagine swimming laps. You are kicking both legs repeatedly while your arms fluidly glide through the resistance that water provides. You are breathing heavily, in rhythm from side to side. All of this is increasing your heart rate, building muscle mass, and burning fat. Swimming is an excellent low impact workout to get yourself in shape! It is a full-body workout and can burn up to 700 calories in an hour.

CYCLING

While we are on the topic of gliding, cycling offers a similar low-impact exercise experience. Because the pedals move continuously on a circular track, your ankle, knee, and hip joints will experience a fluid range of motion. There is no forceful interruption of movement.

If you have ever ridden a bicycle uphill, you already know that cycling can be one of the most challenging cardio exercises out there. Propelling your entire body’s weight forward, plus the weight of your bicycle, will have you winded in no time. Plus, with the many resistance levels that bikes can offer, you will likely find that cycling builds muscle mass in the booty and legs very quickly. Unlike doing squats, which may strain your ankle, knee, and hip joints, cycling will keep the pressure off so that you can see results without experiencing pain. An hour of cycling can burn anywhere from 600 to 750 calories.


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