Having a bad back is the ultimate catch-22. Exercise is beneficial for your spine because it strengthens muscles that support your back. However, getting regular exercise can be difficult if you overwork the same parts of your spine that are already inflamed, injured, or irritated, especially if you’ve had a treatment such as a vertebroplasty procedure. Santa Monica patients are fortunate, however, to have several choices of exercise equipment that tend to be beneficial for people with bad backs.
Elliptical machines are good for people with back pain because they offer a no-impact workout that’s also beneficial. However, you can burn calories with an elliptical workout by increasing the pace based on what’s comfortable for you. It can also increase range of motion, which could mean less pressure on your lower back.
The foot platform allows for smooth back-and-forth gliding while eliminating the jostling that sometimes happens when walking. Elliptical machines typically have handles to hold on to for support. Just be careful with how you twist or turn your trunk while holding on to them. Ultimately, these machines can also be good for your bad back by contributing to:
• Increased back muscle strength without increased pain
• Enhanced spinal flexion and rotation in your lower back area
• Improved posture
Note: The handles on an elliptical machine can be ignored if you have back pain that’s aggravated by forward-and-backward pumping motions.
Regular bike riding can be beneficial, but there’s always the risk of running into rough terrain and other uncontrollable circumstances. However, a stationary bike gives you more control over your workout in a way that’s also safe for your back. There are two options to consider with stationary bikes:
• Traditional stationary bikes – These bikes are usually belt-driven, and they come with wider, more supportive seats.
• Recumbent stationary bikes – These bikes allow you to extend your legs forward instead of just your feet. They also usually have full seats plus backrests.
Start with a recumbent bike if you have lower back issues, since it offers more lumbar support. As you gain more flexibility and muscle strength, consider moving to a traditional stationary bike or even a standard outdoor bike.
Walking is a great way to lose excess weight that may be contributing to your back problems, and it’s generally considered a safe and effective form of exercise for people with back pain. But, as mentioned above, there’s always the risk of too much impact and stress on your spine and its parts.
What a treadmill does is provide the same benefits in a way that’s less impactful on the spine. Make the most of your treadmill experience by:
• Starting at a slower pace
• Gradually increasing the pace as your back pain subsides
• Not holding on to the treadmill itself, since doing so could limit the natural movements of your torso, which could affect your spine
Similar in design to an elliptical machine, a step machine also has pedals or foot platforms that result in up-and-down movements without the need to lift your feet. Rest your hands on the support bars as your feet go up and down, but don’t grip them. You don’t want to make your upper body too rigid or inflexible.
A step treadmill is similar to a step machine. The difference is that it has a series of steps that revolve, kind of like an escalator. You’ll continuously climb them for the duration of your workout. While also an effective way to target spine-supporting muscles, step treadmills tend to produce higher impact levels. For this reason, you might want to start with a lower-impact workout on a step machine before trying a step treadmill.
Before you use any type of exercise equipment, check with your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon first to make sure you don’t do more harm than good. Also, listen to your body and take a break if you notice an uptick in spine-related aches and pains while using any type of exercise equipment.
If you have long-lasting, recurrent, or severe back pain, make sure to see a spine specialist for diagnosis before starting any kind of exercise program. Reach out to the pioneering physicians at The Spine Institute for caring, industry-leading professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating back pain so patients can get back to living their normal active lives. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.