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Feeling Good, Living Better —How to Stay Active with Back Pain

Published September 5, 2017
Friend: Hey man. You want to shoot some hoops?
Me: UGH. I wish. Back pain —can't move
Friend: Come on man. You only live once. You can't bail on me two times in one week now.
Me: Dude. It's not me. I really want to go, but the pain. I'll hit you up if I feel up for it later.
Friend: Okay good. Please do.

Sound like a familiar text exchange among you and your friends? Do you want to get out and move? Do you want to say yes and mean it? We are right with you, Backers. We get frustrated too. But, as oxymoron-ish as this may sound, getting up and moving will actually help you feel less back pain.

Dr. Joel Press, medical director of the Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Centers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago explained, "The disks in your spine don't have much blood supply or neural supply. Instead, they get their nutrition from movement. Fluid squishes in and squishes out —if you don't have movement the disks in your back don't get the nutrition they need to be healthy."

So even if you can't make it to the court (today), you can start small and begin to strengthen your back and maybe one day (in the near future), you can reply back with “On my way man” and mean it.

In the meantime, let's help you get there. Consider four simple exercises that can maybe give you the motivation to jump start a more active lifestyle.

Walking/ Jogging
Walking (or jogging) is a low-impact activity that you can do virtually everywhere. It's summer, after all, so you want to be outside. Consider asking that b-ball buddy to take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood. Or, take a few extra minutes a day and walk around your office or house. Maybe use the stairs instead of an elevator? By doing so, you will develop a habit of movement while increasing your heart rate and jumpstarting those feel good endorphins.

Mild Stretching
Stretching is another comparatively low-impact activity that you can do nearly anywhere. Turn any location into a stretch zone — home, work, anywhere. There are specific positions for those who sit all day, including stretches that you can do while at work. More importantly, there are pocketfuls of stretches for particular body parts to assist in relaxing any painful muscles and/ or joints.

Lightweight Strength Exercises
Moderate strength training (imagine a one 10 lb dumbbell) will strengthen your body while alleviating some of the stress on any overused joints. Remember: start slowly when beginning weight training, particularly if you have not been active for a continued duration of time. If you don’t have dumbbells or free weights, begin with exercise bands or other weighted handheld objects. To target distinct muscles, consider push-ups, crunches and/or sit-ups when hanging around the house.

Water Therapy
Swimming, or any form of water activity, is another low-impact exercise that you can add to your arsenal to evade worsening any joint or musculoskeletal pain. Aquatic exercises are very tender on the joints because they essentially resist gravity while preventing inherent joint injury or overexertion.

Friend: Hey man. You want to shoot some hoops?
Me: Does 4:00 p.m. sound good?
Friend: Seriously?!
Me: Yeah man. I started walking and aqua therapy a few weeks ago. Now, I feel ready for our game.
Friend: Awesome! I'm so happy to hear this. It's on!

For all of you ballers out there, throw all you have into your recovery as you do the game — you may be pleasantly surprised at the decrease in your back pain in addition to how well you feel. #feelgoodlivebetter

Updated: January 31, 2018

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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  • If you spend a lot of time working in one or two positions — sitting or standing — you find that you feel a little pain shooting through the top or bottom of back. That’s when most people try to jog their memory and retrace their steps to figure out why their back is hurting. The simplest way is to check to see if your posture may not be one of them.