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From someone who’s got first-hand experience, believe it: There’s very little that’s more debilitating in the gym than trying to train around a bad, aching, injured lower back. It’s only when you’re hurt that you realize how instrumental every piece of a working body really becomes to affect full functionality.
In the case of the low back, lumbar stability (or lack thereof) is going to likely frustrate most compound movements, rotation, and more. No fun. When it comes to keeping your size or strength training on track, we need to become innovative so we can train hard, but still respect our injuries and the healing and recovery process.
After all, if we don’t consciously work toward relieving our back pain then the inability to workout will be the least of our problems — sitting up, tossing and turning in bed, and just about any other daily task will be met with a sharp pain. It could then take days, possibly even weeks, for us just to get to normal.
You, or someone you know, might think that traditional bed rest might be the best prescription for getting rid of back pain. “If I just take it easy I can get back to the gym in no time,” you’ll tell yourself. Well, you’d be wrong.
Research shows exercise is actually more beneficial for reliving pain than rest.
Still unsure if you should be in the gym in the first place? Consult a professional.
“While most people have [back pain] of unknown cause or origin, others may have a structural or trauma-induced issue with their vertebrae, nerves associated with the spine, or the spinal cord itself,” Carwyn Sharp Ph.D., C.S.C.S., chief science officer of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, says. “This is not the time to man up—a serious back injury can hurt you for the rest of your life.”
If you’re cleared for action, here’s some tips to continue grinding it out in the gym while looking out for your backside.
Lee Boyce is a personal trainer, speaker, fitness writer, and college professor based in Toronto, Canada. He is the owner and operator of leeboycetraining.com and works with clients and athletes for strength, conditioning, and sport performance. With a background as a varsity level sprinter and long jumper in university amid his kinesiology studies, he now brings plenty of that experience and anecdote to the lectures and workshops he delivers around North America to help make trainers and fitness professionals more effective at their jobs. Follow him on all social media @coachleeboyce .
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