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Top Five Worst Sports for Back Pain

worst spine exercises back painWhen you have spinal stenosis and back pain you’re likely to keep being told to stay active and get regular exercise, but what if your favourite type of exercise is downright dangerous for the spine?

Find out what the top five worst sports are if you have back pain and then take a look at our suggestions as to what might be a better way of staying fit and pain-free!


5. Dancing

Some types of dancing can be great for keeping limber and flexible but any that involve significant twisting or high impact, especially while wearing high-heeled shoes, can be really jarring for the spine. You might like to swing and jive but your spine can really suffer if you’re regularly being thrown around on the dance floor. In contrast, some ballroom dancing could actually help with spine posture and strengthen those core muscles so talk to your physical therapist to see what works for you. If you have cervical spinal stenosis, you’ll want to watch for those snappy head movements though!

4. Tennis

Again, this type of sport can be great for fitness but as it is high impact and involves lots of lunging, stretching, twisting, and so on it can really put strain on the spine and exacerbate herniated or bulging discs. Squash and badminton present similar problems so take it easy and talk to your PT before signing up for that tennis tournament. Oh, and if you do carry on playing, get some supportive footwear to cushion some of the shocks to the spine.


3. Trampolining and Gymnastics

A rebounder trampoline can be great news for the spine as it can offer support when jogging and appears to help improve bone density with minimal spine impact. However, doing elaborate swivel-hips and back-flips on a regular sized trampoline puts an incredible amount of pressure on the muscles, bones, ligaments, and discs in the spine and is almost always bad news for back pain. The same goes for gymnastics as twists and rolls and flips and flops put the body into positions that place a lot of stress on the spine. Kids with back pain may be overdoing things in gym class, especially if they’re in competitive gymnastics.

2. Jogging and Running

Another high impact activity, running can be meditative and help to clear the mind of frustrations and stress (which is good for health!) but slamming the feet into the floor over and over causes cumulative damage to the joints in the knees and the spine so is generally bad news for back pain. There are ways of making running and jogging safer for the spine but in general it’s best to find a lower impact way of getting the heart rate up.

1. Sit-Ups and Leg-Lifts

The worst type of exercise for the back may very well be the simple sit-up. This popular part of any workout is great for toning abdominal muscles and going for that six-pack but it places huge amounts of pressure on the lumbar spine, and can also put strain on the neck, depending on where the hands are. Straight leg lifts are another no-no for those with back pain as these also strain the spine. As an alternative, try a pelvic floor tilt to work those abdominals without putting too much strain on the spine.

A few other sports that you might want to skip if you have back pain include volleyball, soccer, and snowboarding.

Great Exercise for Back Pain

So, if all of these popular types of fitness activity are to be avoided when you have back pain how can you go about staying fit and healthy? Some good ideas include swimming or even aquarobics, walking, yoga (under the supervision of someone savvy about back problems), pilates (again, under supervision), resistance training (guided by a PT), and specific spinal stenosis exercises to help relieve back pain and strengthen the spine. You might also consider using a back brace to support the spine during exercise.

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