We’re too busy to let lower back pain slow us down. Life is still happening whether we’re hurting or not, but there are some activities you should avoid when your lower back hurts.
Avoid These 7 Activities If Your Lower Back Hurts
*Never make any changes to your health regimen without the guidance of a licensed health provider.
Do you know what runners absolutely hate?
In fact, I’ve known runners who refused to rest even though they had sciatic pain radiating into their toes.
That’s dedication. Or maybe it’s obsession. Either way, running is one activity you should avoid if your lower back hurts.
Lower back pain often results from inflamed discs, bulging discs, or irritation of spinal joints called facets.
In these cases, the jarring effect from running can worsen inflammation and prolong pain.
One of the biggest mistakes athletes make is refusing to rest when they’re injured which only increases the risk of more severe damage.
There are two certainties in life:
- You’ll never stop runners from running
- You’ll never stop golfers from golfing.
Golfers suffering from lower back pain should avoid the strain of swinging a golf club along with some other activities necessary to the game.
The golf swing largely stresses the L5-S1 disc between the lowest lumbar vertebra and the triangular bone between the hips.
In addition, repeatedly bending over to pick up a golf bag full of clubs (more disc pressure) and then carrying it over one shoulder (uneven load) adds to muscle tension and spinal joint stress.
Researchers have named lower back pain the #1 physical complaint among golfers, accounting for up to 54% of all their documented ailments.
3. Twisting At The Waist
Lower back pain is commonly associated with tight muscles in the lumbar spine and pelvis.
Muscle spasms and tension in these areas can spark the desire to twist the spine from side to side to make it “pop.”
Twisting yourself in an effort to “crack” your spine is never a good idea.
Twisting at the waist places undue stress on the discs of the lower back as well as the facet joints that keep the vertebrae linked together.
I always tell my patients to avoid stretching tight muscles when their lower back hurts.
When nerves are irritated, muscles tighten as a protective response and will relax when inflammation is reduced.
4. Bending Forward With Straight Legs
The danger with bending forward at the waist is placing undue stress on the lower lumbar discs, especially the L5-S1 disc.
Any time you bend forward without also bending your knees you increase the possibility of straining the joints and soft tissues of the spine.
It’s best to refrain from tasks that cause you to round your spine when your lower back hurts.
Some activities to avoid are bending over to put on shoes, leaning forward while washing dishes, standing and working at a table or bench, or arching into a mirror to shave or apply makeup.
I have no idea why crunches became the exercise of choice for strengthening the core.
Spine specialists now know that continually flexing and extending the spine under load can cause spinal discs to tear and eventually herniate.
This is true whether your lower back hurts or not.
The natural curves of the spine lock the vertebrae in place and absorb the stresses of every day physical activity.
When doing crunches, the spine is flat against the floor, which transfers the load to the surrounding spinal joints and ligaments.
The soft tissues of the spine are not designed to withstand the force of this movement repeatedly.
Planks are a much safer, low-impact option for strengthening the core.
6. Strenuous Exercise
Virtually every lower back injury will involve inflammation and muscle tension to some degree.
These effects can cause other problems, like pain, altered motion of vertebral joints, and restriction of vertebrae.
While inflammation and muscle tension can be the cause of lower back pain, they are almost always protective.
Subjecting these areas to excessive physical stress or heavy compression forces can cause them to become more irritated.
Pain is a warning signal and should never be “pushed through.” Ignoring pain can cause further injury and lengthen healing time.
7. Sitting Straight Up From Lying On Your Back
You’re probably noticing a theme here.
All of the movements I’ve listed place an unnatural burden on the lumbar (lower back) discs and joints.
If your lower back hurts, sitting straight up from lying flat on your back can easily worsen the inflammation.
Instead, to get up from your bed or couch, roll to your side, push yourself up with your arms, and lower your feet to the floor.
This greatly reduces the strain on the lower back and can save you a lot of grief.
What To Do If Your Lower Back Hurts
Many of my patients don’t want to hear this, but often the best coarse of action when your lower back hurts is to rest.
If you cannot or will not take time to heal, then limit your activities to those that are low-impact and don’t place any added stress on your spine.
I have also found that ice is much more effective for lower back pain than heat. Of course, this is a general recommendation that will not apply to everyone. Do not continue to use ice if it seems to worsen your discomfort.
Some gentle yoga poses might also be helpful as they safely flex and extend the spine which can increase mobility and lower inflammation.
*Understand that these recommendations are general and do not apply to every person in every case. If you have sudden or persistent pain, please get evaluated by a licensed health professional.