How to Work Out IN SPITE of Lower Back Pain
It can happen at seemingly any time. You might reach to the ground to pick something up and not come back up again. You may complete a set in the gym and feel it afterward. You might even wake up one morning stiff and sore for an unknown reason.
So you’ve tweaked your back, what now?
To set the record straight, I’m not here to diagnose anything for you. Your individual situation will vary, but no matter the injury there are a few important points to keep in mind.
#1 Remain Positive
Reassurance is key here. I used to beat myself up over every little thing that didn’t feel right in my body. Before I had proper lifting form, I would tweak my back way too often. Each time it happened I would berate myself in my head about how what I did was stupid and how I’ve set myself back in terms of my progress and goals, and I would be in a lousy mood for a week.
This is a completely unhelpful attitude for recovery. That’s why your first step when you feel something tweak is to reassure yourself that it’s going to be okay. It’s easy to overreact and say “My back is broken!” or “I’ll never lift again!”, but the drama king/queen attitude only sets you back further.
Thinking about the pain and how “bad” it is, only makes it worse. It’s never as bad as you think. Calm your initial reaction to injury and put your focus on how to get better. Take on rehabilitation as a new challenge.
Speaking of how to get better, the more you move around the better it will feel. Most people’s initial reaction to injury is tentative movement and a whole lot of hesitation. Don’t worry, walk around and test your capabilities and figure out what movements cause pain.
Regardless of how it happened and how severe it is, you will feel tense the next morning. This is your body’s natural reaction to injury. It will tighten up surrounding musculature in an attempt to protect the damaged tissue. All the more reason to move around to loosen up that stiffness. The motion brings blood flow to the tissues which is necessary for healing.
Here’s what NOT to do:
Push through the initial pain
If you hurt your back deadlifting 100lbs, don’t immediately give it another attempt. Something went wrong, and further work of similar intensity can make the injury worse. Play the long game, you can get your set in another time.
Like I mentioned before, you’ll feel better when you move around and bring blood flow to your joints and tissues. Sitting or lying down for long periods of time will cause your body to tense up and it’ll be even more difficult to move afterward.
Avoid the gym entirely
Even though there is an inherent risk with working out, the risks of not working out will always be greater in my mind. Don’t use an injury in one area as an excuse to not exercise. Test your capabilities and do what you can. No good will come from taking time off to feel sorry for yourself.
Avoid the trigger exercise
Just because you tweaked your back deadlifting doesn’t mean you can’t still train the movement. For example, air deadlifts with even just the weight of a dowel or broomstick can help. Give yourself a day or so and you can slowly work back up to your normal working set weight over time. Deadlifts don’t hurt your back. Incorrect form and improper preparation among other things are the reason you hurt your back.
There are many adjustments you can make to keep on training.
- Adjust the weight
- Shorten range of motion
- Substitute an exercise that works similarly
The take-home point is to continue moving as long as there isn’t any major pain or discomfort. Your body will heal. It takes time, but it will heal and you’ll be back before you know it.
What’s your other option? Not training?
To your good health,