Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Rachel Lapidos of Well + Good. Their mission is to decode and demystify what it means to live a well life, inside and out. The articles and resources touch on food and nutrition, holistic health, and fitness tips. Rachel reached out to me seeking information on exercises that are linked to back pain, and I showed up to the conversation armed with a wealth of well-researched biomechanical information that I am always eager to share; the challenge to articulate this in a way that is applicable and actionable to readers.
“2 Of The Worst Exercises You Can Do For Your Spine are Super Common, According to a Chiropractor,” touches on exercise that can be problematic for back pain sufferers. Outside of what was published in the article, I also talked about how the risk of a spine injury increases with added stress. We traditionally think of that stress in the form of heavy weight, and associate back injuries in the gym with people lifting too much. However other important and often overlooked factors to consider in tissue fatigue and risk of injury are the number of repetitions, and the length of time we spend doing a particular task. The more we repeat an exercise, the more susceptible the tissues become to failure, and we must buffer in adequate rest between workouts and within exercises to restore the safety threshold.
A simple application of this theory can be applied when it comes to structuring a workout. Workouts are often designed in an escalating fashion – the first set may include 5 repetitions, the second set including 10 repetitions, the third set including 15 repetitions and so on. The danger in structuring a sequence this way is that the tissues are strongest at the beginning of the workout period, and as they weaken, form and alignment become compromised and this is often what leads to injury. Reversing the structure of the workout to include the highest number of repetitions at the beginning when the tissues are most resilient, and reducing the number of repetitions as the tissues become fatigued is a simple way to keep your spine safe as you move.
Give the article a read if you are interested in learning about two modifications to common “core strengthening” exercises that I suggest as a means to keep the spine protected as you exercise.
Exercise is helpful in the management of back pain, but requires specificity to keep you safe. Check in with someone who specializes in this space, such as a chiropractor, a personal trainer or a physiotherapist for customized advice on your fitness plan.