“No pain, no gain” is a mantra often used by people who hit the gym or exercise on a regular basis. Under normal circumstances, some degree of muscle soreness after a strenuous workout is a good thing. However, if you have lower back pain from a herniated disc or a condition such as spinal stenosis, you may be wondering when it’s best to keep pressing forward with your routine and when it’s time to take a break to avoid overstressing your lower back, spinal discs, joints, and supporting muscle groups.
What’s the Difference Between Soreness and Lower Back Pain?
It helps to know the difference between normal pain from exercise-related muscle soreness and lower back pain that’s telling you to stop what you’re doing and see your doctor. Normal soreness is usually experienced as dull aches. Muscle soreness is typically characterized by:
- Muscle tenderness, stiffness, or rigidity
- Discomfort primarily experienced after a strenuous workout or activity
- Dull aches that slowly fade and go away within 24 to 72 hours
Lower back pain, on the other hand, is usually moderate-to-severe in nature. This type of pain is more persistent and not likely to go away naturally after you’re done exercising. Lower back pain is typically a type of discomfort that’s also triggered by other movements you normally make throughout your day. For instance, pain may be felt while sitting at work or reaching down to pick something up.
What Are the Possible Causes of Your Lower Back Pain?
Working through occasional soreness means your muscles are being effectively stimulated, which is fine. However, you shouldn’t work through lower back pain. Lower back pain associated with exercise could be occurring for any of the following reasons:
- You’re doing too many reps or using too much weight
- You’re not paying attention to proper form and technique
- You’re opting for exercises that put too much pressure on the part of your back that’s the source of your pain
- Your pain has another source that hasn’t been diagnosed and is contributing to your exercise-related pain
What Can You Do About Lower Back Pain Experienced While Exercising?
Start by seeing your doctor or a Beverly Hills spine surgeon to make sure your source of lower back pain has been properly diagnosed. Testing can also determine if you’ve unintentionally made the issue worse with your exercise habits. After you’ve received additional treatment, minimize pain aggravated by certain exercises by:
- Making appropriate modifications to your routine
- Opting for less demanding alternatives (e.g. using a stationary bike or elliptical machine instead of jogging or biking on hard pavement and uneven surfaces)
- Considering gentler forms of exercise such as water aerobics and yoga that work the same muscle groups in a less strenuous way
If you’re not sure whether or not your current exercise routine is stimulating your back-supporting muscles in a good way, check with your doctor. You may also benefit from working with a physical therapist or a trainer to develop routines and exercise habits that are better for your back. Don’t forget to stay hydrated as you work out, and make smart food choices to keep tissues around your spine healthy.
Chronic lower back pain may develop due to a variety of causes. At The Spine Institute, we specialize in surgical procedures that treat the causes of severe back pain. These minimally invasive procedures range from traditional fusion surgery to lumbar disc replacement. Beverly Hills patients can trust in Dr. Bae and his team of expert surgeons to diagnose the source of their pain and help them find relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.