At Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic, we view just about any exercise as a good thing. It is the way to strengthen muscles that support your spine. Strong muscles keep your back from being injured as easily.
But your back can be a delicate customer, and certain exercises, or at least certain exercises done incorrectly, can do more harm than good. That may seem counterintuitive — “Hey, everyone says I need to start exercising, and now you’re questioning my technique?” — but there are just certain exercises that are really hard on your back. Yes, some of these exercises are in the exercise hall of fame, so to speak, but not all old wisdom is good wisdom. Remember, people once thought sleeping on the hardest mattress possible was actually good for your back.
Anyway, because Dr. Trujillo and our entire staff are dedicated to relieving your pain, often involving your back, here are four exercises to avoid.
Your lower back thinks this old gym class staple sucks, at least in the way most people do them — with your hands clasped behind your head. When you do this, most people use their hands to pull up, rather than their core. This puts tons of pressure on your neck and upper spine. If you pull quick and hard enough, as happens when your stomach has had enough, you can actually herniate a disc.
Heavy overhead lifts
If you think you’re a big-time weight lifter or are out to show off to a friend who came to lift with you, your back is on alert. Grab the bar, load on some weight and pretend you’re in the Olympics. Ouch. When your lower back arches as your shoulders move backward just a bit, you are compressing the vertebrae of your lower spine. This can actually fracture a vertebra.
Incline leg presses
This famed machine is the favorite of the loudest grunters at the gym. That’s an annoyance to everyone near them, but at least you have the comfort of knowing that obnoxious person will probably have back trouble at one time or another, and then he won’t be in the gym grunting for all to hear. When you sit on the machine you are angled backwards with your legs above your head. This puts your back in an awkward, unnatural, flexed position. Push hard enough and you can create lots of back problems that you won’t feel immediately, but they’ll come see you over time.
Squats are great for your lower body, if you do them right. Problem is, most people do them wrong, plus they lift lots of weight while they’re at it. This probably started when you were young, where you didn’t pay for it. Tons of weight coupled with bad form equals back injury. Learn how to do a squat correctly and start with just lifting your body weight rather than loading up the barbells.
If you’ve been doing any of these exercises, it’s a good idea to find better alternatives such as planks or pilates as substitutes. Of course, if you’ve already given your back reason to cry out, we should see you at Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic. Call us at (928) 532-1605 to make an appointment.