Overexercise and Back Pain: When Workouts Cause Problems

“No pain, no gain” goes the saying throughout gyms around the country. If you want the benefits of strenuous exercise, you need to accept some level of discomfort that accompanies your exertion. While this is certainly true to some degree, it’s easy to overdo it, and when your lower back becomes the source of ongoing pain, exercise itself may be a key contributor, not a preventive measure. Playing through the pain isn’t always possible. 

When lower back pain becomes a problem that prevents you from exercising to your desired level or that interferes with your non-workout life, it’s time to visit the doctors at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center to find a solution. Whether it’s an injury or a simple matter of body mechanics, Dr. Abhishiek Sharma and Dr. Erik Curtis can help you sidestep the pain and return to action. 

Understanding microtrauma

Building muscle and increasing strength actually requires some physical damage to your muscles for successful progress. Heavy exercise introduces tiny tears into muscle tissue, microtraumas that trigger a healing response and add muscle mass. Pain that accompanies microtrauma is unavoidable. 

However, if you’re back in the gym the next day for a similar workout, you could be aggravating existing microtears while creating more, resulting in a downward cycle of pain that can put you on the sidelines. It can take up to 72 hours — not to mention over the counter anti-inflammatories — to get past the initial series of microtears. Rotating to exercises that go easy on your back muscles assists the normal healing and development of muscle tissue. 

It’s important to understand that rest is an essential part of your exercise program, and without it, your condition won’t develop the way you want and your risk of back injury rises. 

Bad-for-your-back exercises

Designed to support your body and its changing center of gravity through a wide range of motion, your spine demonstrates its resilient bioengineering by operating trouble-free much of the time. However, overextension is often a cause of back pain. You can strain ligaments and muscles or rupture disks simply by moving beyond the limits of safety, creating forces that the components of your spine can’t handle. 

This is especially true when you’re in the early stages of an exercise program, and you haven’t yet built the strength of muscles supporting the spine. Excess strain is then borne by the other components of the system, raising the risk of injury. 

Some exercises are more likely to create force that could damage your back. Fortunately, these can often be substituted for other routines that remove the risk. Consider replacing: 

Sit ups with half-planks: your shoulders raise no more than 6 inches off horizontal, before the load shifts to your lower back

Deadlifts with leg presses: isolating your legs while on a weight machine poses less risk to your lower back

Burpees with high-intensity interval training: try 3 minutes every 15 minutes with a fast pace on an elliptical trainer or treadmill

Toe touches with supine hamstring stretches: laying on your back and pulling up your knees stretches your hamstrings while your back is in a neutral position, without strain

With three locations in Phoenix and Sun City West, Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center is conveniently located to help you with back pain issues, whether exercise induced or not. Call the closest office directly, or request an appointment using the online booking tools. Pain should be temporary and gain ongoing, so schedule a consultation today if your results are different.

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If you're looking for a neurosurgeon in the Phoenix area, contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center for the ultimate neurological care.