Back injuries can happen from something as minuscule as lifting improperly to something severe like a traumatic accident. Regardless of how you hurt your back, the pain is debilitating or distracting. An injury from lifting can take you out for a few weeks. You might be able to get through your day but you'll have trouble focusing when your back hurts. Being in pain most of the day is no fun either!
Why You Need to Strengthen Your Back
After any type of back injury, you should start a back exercise and stretching routine to help strengthen the back. Because the back and abdominal muscles aren't exercised sufficiently through daily activities like the gluteal muscles are for active people, you need to regularly work them out to maintain a strong back. You will be prone to injury if the gluteal, abdominal, or back muscles are weak or tight.
First Take Time to Rest Your Back
You will be tempted to go about your daily life as you did before your injury, but you need to take time to rest. Following a rehabilitation and back strengthening routine diligently will allow you to return to your regular activities. On the bright side, you will be less likely to become injured again when you keep up with a back workout routine. Therefore, you can enjoy your hobbies and other activities more than before with that knowledge.
During the healing period, you must implement these three recovery strategies:
- Pay more attention to your breathing and remind yourself to take deep soothing breaths. People tend to breathe shallowly when they feel stressed, anxious, or upset. If you're feeling impatient and upset about your back pain, then consciously take several slow deep breaths. It will help you relax. Tense muscles only slow down your recovery.
- Be aware of your body and its movements. Increasing your body awareness will help with recovery and prevention of another back injury. Pay more attention to your posture and the movements you make as you reach for an object, sit down, etc. Poor posture contributes to or causes back pain. Posture is a major factor for most people. They are unaware of their poor posture unless someone points it out to them. Learn about how to tell if your posture is correct and find exercises that help you improve your posture. Throughout the day when you notice yourself slouching, consciously straighten your spine. With practice, you will improve your posture and therefore ease your back pain.
- Accept that your body needs time to heal. A lot of people, especially athletes and fitness fanatics, want to rush their recovery periods. They itch to hit the gym again and train as they did before, but they know that they can't because their back needs to heal. Those who are crazy about fitness often become depressed when they're unable to train intensely. Therefore, it's important to accept the stage you're at and be patient with yourself. If you hurt yourself further by working out before your back is ready, then you'll only prolong the healing process in the end as well as cause yourself more pain.
The Best Exercises for Strengthening Your Back After an Injury
Once your doctor has given you the green light for exercise and rehabilitation, you may start strengthening your back. Here are some exercises you can do from the comfort of your home to strengthen your back:
Pelvic Tilts - This exercise is great for increasing the range of motion of your pelvis and lower back. Low mobility can lead to injuries, so improving your range of motion is essential. Pelvic tilts improve your awareness of the anterior and posterior tilting of the spine and what a neutral pelvis should feel like. To do pelvic tilts, lie down on your back with your feet flat on the ground and hold two to three fingers on your hip bones. Shift your pelvis toward the rib cage and hold for two to three seconds, then move the pelvis away from the rib cage holding for the same amount of time.
Hip Bridge - The hip bridge strengthens your posterior muscles in the back, hips, and legs. Lie down on your back with your feet planted flat on the ground. Raise your hips in the air while keeping your arms on the floor and hold that position for 20-30 seconds.
Leg Slides - Leg slides help you maintain a neutral spine and increases core strength. Lie down on your back with your feet flat on the floor and rest your hands on your hip bones. Extend one of your legs and drag your heel along the ground. Repeat on the other side.
Bird Dog - This exercise builds up the core and hip muscles. To do the bird dog, kneel on all fours and extend one leg and the arm on the opposite side. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds before repeating with the other limbs. When you extend your leg, flex your foot. Also have your thumb face up when you hold out your arm.
Modified Side Plank - Your obliques play a role in supporting the spine, so you need an exercise that targets the side muscles. The modified side plank is a good way to strengthen your obliques as well as your shoulder-blades. Sit on the floor and lean to the right on your arm. Raise your left arm straight above your head, and stay in plank for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Which Muscles Are Important for a Strong Back?
You would think that only the back muscles influence the strength of your back. However, this is not true. There are three groups of muscles that impact spinal health. All three of these muscles should be exercised and stretched, in order to protect your spine from injury and prevent it from supporting more of your weight than it's designed to handle. Here are the three groups of muscles you must strengthen for a healthy back:
- Extensors - The extensor muscles in the back and butt are important for standing, lifting, extending, and abducting the hip.
- Flexors - The flexor muscles in the abdominal and iliopsoas bend and support the spine from the front, adduct the hip, and control the arch of your lower spine.
- Obliques - Your side muscles stabilize the spine when it's upright, help maintain correct posture and curvature, and rotate the spine.
We addressed each of these muscle groups in the exercises we outlined above. Whatever you do, make sure you include exercises in your routine that strengthen each of these three muscle groups.
Your back is weaker after an injury, so it's important to dedicate time toward not only rebuilding the muscles but making them stronger than before. The odds are your back was already too weak before you got injured. It likely played a role in the injury. To create a strong healthy back, you must regularly exercise the abdominals, obliques, hip muscles, back muscles, and glutes. Each of these muscle groups adds support to the spine.
We have back braces that can help support your spine during your road to full recovery. To avoid hurting your back doing these exercises, we recommend you wear a back brace for extra support. Contact us for more information on our back braces and exercises to strengthen your back after an injury.