Back pain: 6 sports that provide relief


Putting a painful body back into action allows you to regain confidence in your back. The best activity? Above all, the one that provides pleasure!

Contrary to a belief that also dies hard, no sporting activity is to be banned when you have back pain. Nor to favor either. Any sporting activity is good. “The best is the one that will bring pleasure, advises Alexandra Roren, physiotherapist in the rehabilitation department of Cochin hospital, because the challenge is not to learn a technique, but to practice this activity over time and regularly – ideally several times a week. “

The goal is not to estimate the performance – in any case, not right away nor for everyone. Put a sore body back into exercise “requires determination and progressiveness. It can take time to regain confidence in your back”, warns Éric Bouthier, physiotherapist in Lyon and creator of the site Comprendre son dos. Given the pain, which will not give way immediately, it may require adjusting some movements at the start. “It is necessary to respect a time of specific rehabilitation exercises, which will make it possible to strengthen the spinal muscles around the spine, in order to then be able to gradually resume activity”, explains Alexandra Roren.

In video: What back pain do you suffer from?

# 1 swimming

Swimming has a reputation for being the best for the back. Floating in water can indeed provide a feeling of well-being, and this carrier effect, which abolishes the weight on the skeleton, seems attractive to get back to sport gently. From a scientific point of view, swimming does not prove, however, a better result on the evolution of low back pain than any other sporting activity carried out regularly. “Swimming is often a bad idea, smiles Alexandra Roren who notices that patient adherence usually does not last long. We tell ourselves that it’s easy to go to the swimming pool, and then very quickly, we give up in front of what this implies all the same of constraints, in winter for example. “

# 2 Pilates

The method was invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1930s. He himself overcome the handicap of his rickets and rheumatism through regular physical activity, he first developed it to re-educate professional dancers. This gymnastics is based on a series of exercises on the floor, with or without accessories, which combine concentration, breathing and precision of movements, while developing body awareness. “By focusing on the center of gravity – the pelvis – and breathing and working on self-enlargement, Pilates would promote deep muscle work“, details Alexandra Roren. The analysis of nearly 90 studies evaluating, among other things, the effectiveness of Pilates, published in 2019 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, underlined a relative efficacy in the short and medium term against pain and disability associated with common low back pain. And without unwanted effects.

# 3 Yoga

Very fashionable, this ancestral Indian discipline aims to harmonize body and mind. The most popular form in the West (hatha yoga) consists of a series of postures that strengthen the deep muscles, stretching them, while working on breathing and meditation. “Any activity that invites you to explore new movements – flexions, extensions, rotations – is beneficial”, emphasizes Éric Bouthier. As long as you listen to your body and do not immediately engage in acrobatic postures. “Yoga, like other physical activities, will always be more effective on pain and motor skills in patients with chronic low back pain than no activity”, considers Alexandra Roren. A comparative study conducted in 2011, between patients participating in regular yoga sessions and others simply receiving a guide to ordinary physical exercises to practice at home, found that yoga contributed better to alleviating pain.

# 4 the bike

Contrary to what one might think, pedaling curved on a handlebar is not harmful and is on the contrary an excellent sport for the back (and for health in general, especially cardiovascular). “There is nothing wrong with leaning forward, recalls Alexandra Roren. When you have a narrowed back canal, it even reduces painful symptoms. “ The important thing is to ride – or ride an exercise bike – in a suitable position, adjusting the saddle and handlebar heights properly.

# 5 walking

As long as you are on the right foot, favoring easy terrain at the start, walking has it all, especially if it is fast (or Nordic, with poles). At a rate of at least 30 minutes, “it constitutes an excellent anaerobic activity”, underlines Alexandra Roren, “a basic activity which brings a multidimensional benefit, at the same time on the low back pain, but also on the mental state”. It also has the advantage of being the easiest to practice regularly, without too much equipment, where you want, when you want.

# 6 jogging

Very practiced because it can be in the city and by adapting its outings to its schedule, running is not contraindicated either when you have back pain. Under certain conditions: wear suitable, comfortable and light sneakers, preferably running on regular ground and not aiming for performance in the first place. If you have never run, it is essential to go gradually. Ditto if we stopped, believing that this would solve the low back pain: “For one or two years, it is better to start with functional rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the deep muscles and proprioception, in order to re-train the body to react to the phenomena of destabilization “, advises Alexandra Roren.

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