Today, back pain is one of the most common disorders to affect adults. In fact, about 80% of the U.S. population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. That’s a startling statistic, and it gets even worse when you consider that back pain can affect people of all ages, creeds, and demographics and that severe cases of back pain can limit the quality of life and even make it difficult for people to work.
So, what’s the solution? How do we protect our spines and cut down on the rate of back pain in our everyday lives?
The answer is simple: self-care. By focusing on things like diet and routine chiropractic care, as well as taking part in some spin-supporting activities like the ones listed in this post, you can keep your spine healthy and happy for years to come.
Let’s dive in.
The 5 Best Recreational Activities to Support Your Spine
Some activities aren’t great for the spine (heavy weight-lifting, for example) or long-distance running. Others, however, can go a long to support your spinal health and keep you limber and pain-free for years. Here are a few of our top recommendations:
Yoga has long been touted as the activity of choice for bendy people. For a good reason, though. Yoga, which focuses on combining breath with deep, purposeful movement, is one of the best activities for building and maintaining muscles and promoting proper alignment.
Don’t believe us? Take Science’s word for it. According to a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga can work wonders to reduce or eliminate mild to moderate back pain. Here’s an excerpt from the study:
“Study participants were randomly divided into three treatment groups. One group received 12 weekly yoga classes designed specifically for people with chronic back pain; one received 15 physical therapy visits over 12 weeks; one was given an educational book and newsletters about self-care for chronic low back pain. The researchers then continued to track the participants for an additional 40-week maintenance phase. During this phase, people in the yoga and physical therapy groups were randomly assigned to either continue to practice at home or with a professional—at yoga classes or physical therapy sessions.
The researchers found that all three groups reported improvement in physical function and pain reduction. However, people in the yoga and physical therapy treatment groups were significantly more likely than those in the education-only group to stop taking pain relievers after one year. These findings suggest that a structured yoga program may be a reasonable alternative to physical therapy for people with chronic low back pain.”
If you’ve never tried yoga before, don’t be afraid to start. Most gyms and local fitness centers offer introductory “gentle yoga” classes, designed to familiarize newcomers with the movements, and ease the body into flexibility.
Walking is a simple yet powerful approach to resolving back pain and cutting down on stress. Today, lots of lower back pain is caused by a lack of movement and the subsequent fusing of the lower spine. Most of us sit at desks or in chairs all day, and the muscles and bones in our lower back lose movement and mobility because of it.
When you take up walking, though, it promotes gentle movement throughout the spine, breaking up blockages, promoting healthy alignment, and restoring range of motion. Walking also boosts the body’s endorphin levels, leading to enhanced mood, less stress, and better sleep.
Even better? Walking doesn’t require any complicated equipment or a pricey gym membership. Just grab a comfortable pair of shoes, some clothes you can move in, and a pair of headphones and get out there!
3. Swimming/Water Aerobics
Swimming is an excellent activity for anyone suffering from pain, as it’s gentle on the joints and non-weight-bearing. When you swim, you involve your entire body in the movement, simultaneously activating your abdominals, glutes, hamstrings, arms, and back muscles. If you’ve been suffering from back pain, take a swimming class, or see if your local gym offers water aerobics in a warm water therapy pool. Both activities will help strengthen and repair your back muscles without adding additional strain.
4. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that, like yoga, combines breathing and movement. Unlike yoga, however, Tai Chi focuses on slow movements meant to improve balance and reduce chronic pain. While yoga might have you contort yourself into a pretzel, Tai Chi focuses on movements made standing up. Tai Chi has been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep, and promote weight loss, as well.
5. The Elliptical Machine
If you’re looking for low-impact cardio activity, spend some time on the elliptical at your local gym. While the movement of the elliptical mimics running, the paddles soften impact and create a “gliding” motion that’s easy on your joints. This is an excellent option for anyone who wants to sweat but doesn’t want to torque their back in the process.
Additionally, since the elliptical helps build the muscles in the hips and low back, using it regularly can help you keep your back in alignment and prevent problems from cropping up down the road.
Working out for Better Spine Health
If you thought physical activity was the wrong thing for your spine health, think again. While some activities will do a number on your spine, others are excellent for strengthening the muscles throughout your lower back, promoting proper alignment, and keeping everything exactly where it should be.
Even better, these activities help combat the stress of your daily life, promote better sleep, help you trim down, and enhance your mood across the board!
As always, remember to talk to your chiropractor or healthcare provider before adding a new exercise regimen to your life. If you have questions about these activities, or you want to learn more about how to ensure a healthy spine, contact our offices today!