How Risky is Working Out With Back / Joint Issues?

If your back hurts (even a little) while you’re reading this, do keep reading, especially if you think about incorporating physical activity into your everyday life.

Being physically active is great for your health — there’s no doubt about that. But what are the risks if you have health issues with the back or joints?

As we’ve mentioned in our previous article found here, hitting the gym without going through a medical check-up poses big risks for your health.

Given that you already know that you have spinal issues or problems with joints, or you’re concerned that you might be suffering from them (go through a check-up to know for sure!), can you be physically active without actually hurting yourself?

Bad Joints in the Gym: Will They Break or Heal?

Let’s start with the joints. You’re probably aware that a human body is made up of numerous joints. But there are just as many issues associated with those joints.

You’ve probably heard that if you have problems with the joints, you have to take certain precautions before starting to sprint obsessively, cycle for hours or lift heavy weights.

But what does it mean exactly? Let’s say a physician told you that you have serious issues with the knee joints and advised you to stay away from putting too much stress on your knees.

What does it mean for a person who wants to get in shape and start working out?

Bad Knees and Working Out: Friends or Enemies?

If you have any issues with the knees, you should avoid long sessions of cycling or too much running, as both put massive amounts of stress on the knees if performed for too long.

Swimming, on the other hand, has absolutely no negative effect on the knees, even if done excessively (unless, of course, you involve the knees too much).

As for weight lifting, here’s where it gets tricky. While you should avoid deadlifts, squats, lunges and other leg-based exercises at all costs if you have serious issues with the knees, you can still do exercises for other muscle groups.

However, do note that you’ll have to do all exercises seated or lying down in order to not put additional strain on the knees (think: seated shoulder presses instead of standing shoulder presses).

Note: if you’re suffering from knee pain, but your physician told you it’s nothing serious, you can still perform deadlifts, squats, lunges and other leg exercises but never go too heavy on these exercises.

‘My Elbows or Shoulders Hurt, Does It Mean I Can’t Work Out?’

Exercises for bigger arms – biceps, triceps, and shoulders – are the main culprit behind elbow or shoulder pain in the gym.

Even compound exercises such as bench presses, pull-ups and shoulder presses, which engage multiple muscle groups, may hurt your elbows and shoulders.

If your elbows or shoulders hurt even from light weights, it’s fair to say that weight lifting is not the best option for you.

However, if your elbow or shoulder joints aren’t that bad, you can use special sports bandages that will calm the pain and prevent injuries. Meanwhile, keep in mind that you can still run and cycle even with bad elbows and shoulders.

As for swimming, it may have a bad effect on your should joints. As we’ve noted in our separate article about swimming, this type of physical activity doesn’t put an extreme physical stress on your muscles, joints or body as a whole.

But certain strokes force your shoulder joints to move at a maximum amplitude, which in some cases can be harmful to your joints. Seek professional help from your physician about the possible negative effects of swimming on your shoulder joints.

Working Out with Back Pain: Should You, or Should Not?

Most back problems are acquired throughout life and are not congenial. Most of the times a spinal problem occurs due to injury, too much physical stress or, on the contrary, lack of activity.

If you’re suffering from congenial and traumagenic diseases, there can be no generic answer if you’re wondering whether or not working out is risky for your health.

Only after a thorough check-up of your particular health condition a physician can tell you whether or not you’re safe to incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.

If the back pain is caused by lack of activity, there’s a safe way to be physically active without putting too much stress on the back. That is swimming.

Why Swimming is the Best Type of Physical Activity for Back Pain

When swimming, your entire spine – starting from the сervical spine all the way to the lumbar spine – is engaged, but in a healthy, moderate way. Treat swimming as a comfortable and beneficial warm-up session for the back.

In fact, being in a comfortable horizontal position during swimming allows your spine to take a break and relax from keeping your body weight static and vertical 24/7.

The bottom line is this: if your back problem is caused by lack of activity, swimming can not only be your go-to safe type of physical activity but also stop the disease from getting worse and even reduce pain in the back.

Absolute NO’s When Your Back Hurts

Now, let’s talk about what you absolutely cannot do if you have any type of spinal disease. First and foremost, weight lifting poses the greatest threat to your health, as lifting weights – both light and heavy – puts an enormous amount of stress on the back.

The only safe weight lifting exercises are those performed in a horizontal position while lying down on a bench. However, you cannot use heavy weights in order to prevent injury.

If you’re doing bench press with heavy weights, your spine tends to come into play to help your chest, shoulders, and triceps hold the dumbbells or barbell. This, in turn, may cause injury if you already have back pain.

Also, do keep in mind that if your muscles, bones or joints are injured or unhealthy, it means you’ll have to spend more time warming up prior to picking up the weights.

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