Is there anything more cringe-worthy than feeling something pop mid-deadlift? When you’re addicted to working out or just trying to get in shape, a back injury completely ruins your day, week, or even year. Back pain’s the worst – it can come from pulled muscles, disc issues, poor posture, incorrect lifting techniques, and basic wear and tear over time. Once you’ve got it, back pain can easily become a chronic condition. Bending over to tie your shoes can become a chore. If you’re looking to avoid back problems, here’s what you can do.
1. Hit up a personal trainer.
Asking for help isn’t always easy, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to do something right the first time than to end up in physical therapy because you fucked up your back. Invest in personal training, even if it’s just for a few sessions, and ask for them to help you make sure your form is in top shape when you lift.
2. Lose weight.
Sorry, bears. Turns out your fat isn’t just putting you at increased risk for heart disease, type II diabetes, and all sorts of other issues. It also affects your back. A big belly overworks your back and affects its alignment. Your discs suffer the most.
3. Sit up. (But not for too long).
Slouching is tempting on a tough day, but you want to stay at a nice and even 90 degrees. Set your laptop at eye level and switch from a cushy chair to a yoga ball. But don’t sit too long – it stresses out your spinal column (and fucks with your metabolism). If it’s too hard to leave the desk, invest in a standing desk.
4. Quit running.
It’s pretty damn nice to hear that in an article on working out, isn’t it? Running puts a ton of stress on your back, and if you’re at risk of developing a back injury, you’re much better off with exercises like biking and swimming.
5. Stay straight.
When you’re weightlifting, you want to keep the natural arch in your back. Don’t round your back or overarch it.
6. Tighten up.
Squat the right way. Tense up your abs. This helps keep your lower back straight and secure. Squeeze your butt muscles, too. Tight glutes lock up your sacrum and lumbar areas so your back and hips move together.
7. Lighten your load.
Weightlifting can make you feel invincible. You’re not. Add more weight slowly. If you’re more prone to developing back injuries or have been having more pain after workouts, go for lighter weights with higher reps.
8. Mix it up.
Don’t just lift free weights. Hit up the machines and do some bodyweight exercises. Your body and your muscles crave variety, and sometimes your back needs a break.
9. Sleep like a baby.
Invest in a firm and comfortable mattress, and when you settle down for the night, try curling up into a fetal position. This takes a lot of stress off your back muscles. Tucking a pillow between your legs also helps to take some pressure off your back and hips.
10. Don’t ignore back pain.
This has got to be the easiest tip that’s the hardest to follow. Don’t fucking ignore when you feel bad. Don’t be a bad ass (read: dumb ass) and press through the pain – it’ll only mean you’ll end up taking weeks off instead of a day or two. Treat yourself with RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and an anti-inflammatory med like Ibuprofen or Aspirin.