Lift Weights to Prevent Back Pain
Study: Push Sore Muscles for Back Pain Relief
When it comes to pain, a typical first reaction is to lie down on the couch and take it easy for a few hours (or maybe a few days or even weeks). We're conditioned from childhood to react that way. But if you have back pain, rest may not be best. In fact, a new study suggests strengthening your sore back muscles provides more back pain relief.
And one of the best ways to strengthen your muscles? Weight training.
Before you cringe, consider this: participants in a 2009 study said that lifting weights reduced their back pain and improved their quality of life by as much as 28%.
Researchers from the University of Alberta, led by assistant professor Robert Kell, recently presented the study's findings at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting in Seattle. Participants included 240 men and women who never had back surgery, damaged vertebrae, or nerve root problems. But they all had chronic low back pain caused by soft tissue injuries.
The participants began the 16-week study by lifting small amounts of weight. They gradually lifted more weight as the study went on (a gradual increase helps prevent injury). The aim wasn't to build large muscles, but rather to build strength.
It might not make sense to push your muscles when they already ache. And that's why many people with back pain don't exercise—they think it will worsen their pain. But strong muscles are far less prone to injury than weak ones. Moreover, exercise loosens your joints. If you rest too much, your muscles and joints will become stiff and weak. By increasing your overall strength, you'll be able to complete your daily activities with reduced—or no—pain.
You may be hesitant to begin an exercise program—especially a weight lifting program. But you don't need to train like an Olympian to effectively strengthen your muscles. Start slow, lift light, and lift often.
Naturally, the more you condition your muscles, the stronger they'll become. The researchers suggested starting a strengthening regimen and keeping it—not simply stopping the program once your pain level becomes manageable. Three to five 30-minute sessions per week is a general guideline.
On that same note, the researchers stressed that a three-fold program—one that incorporates chest-toning bench presses, lateral pull downs to strengthen the back, and leg presses—will deliver optimal results. Focusing on only one area (only doing lateral pull downs, for instance) won't fully reduce your pain. You need a strong upper and lower body to best support your back muscles.
Weight training is an excellent way to strengthen your back muscles, but always consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program. He or she may even help you develop a workout regimen, as starting a weight training program for the first time can be daunting. Lifting weights might not completely eliminate your pain, but these recent findings show that it will reduce your pain. For many back pain sufferers, that's reason enough to get off the couch and into the gym.