If you suffer from back pain, or want to prevent developing it in the future, you may want to give some of your workouts a better-for-your-back makeover. Back pain specialist Yoav Suprun, DPT, Dip.MDT, CSCS, owner of SOBE Spine in Miami Beach, Florida, explains how to avoid spinal stress during your next cycling, yoga or Pilates class.
Sitting on a bike can cause the discs in the lumbar spine to move backward, which can lead to stiffness, pain and discomfort. If you spend most of your day sitting, cardio activities that keep your spine upright – can help balance the stress of a slouched posture. But, if you really love the bike, here are a few things you can do to keep back pain at bay:
- Make sure your bike seat is properly positioned. When the pedal is in the lowest position, your knee should remain slightly bent, without locking at the joint. Raise the handlebars to help alleviate some of the forward lean during your ride.
- Stretch. Every 10 minutes or so during your ride, try this exercise: arch your lower back as much as possible with an anterior pelvic tilt (picture pressing your belly button forward). Do 15 to 20 reps to help realign your spine.
- Stick to three cycling session a week, max. For a healthy back, crosstrain with other activities, such as swimming, running or hiking, on alternate days.
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“My patients often come to me, saying, ‘It’s great for me, so why do I keep getting injured?’” says Suprun. If you have injured yourself in the past, some yoga postures or movements could aggravate the area, but, if you are regularly leaving yoga class because of back pain, Suprun suggests you see a specialist to find out the root cause.
If the pain kicks in hours after your class, it could be your posture afterwards, not the routine itself, says Suprun. Don’t forget that one of the main causes of back pain is slouching, so be sure to maintain good posture during your off-gym hours, too.
Pilates is often advertised as a solution to back problems, but it could be exacerbating some neck issues that also affect your back. “Ever done Pilates and felt like your neck weighs a ton? Well, often, flexion and protrusion of the neck – as in, looking down at your phone while texting or staring at your laptop monitor with a stretched-out neck,” explains Suprun, which can cause your upper spine to become misaligned.
Before and after most supine mat exercises, try this technique: retract your head “as if someone you don’t like is trying to kiss you,” says Suprun. Hold this position for a few seconds, then release to return to neutral.