Many people deal with neck or back pain, stemming from various causes. A common cause of both is car accidents, as an example.
Even seemingly mild collisions, like the 1.7 million rear-end collisions that happen annually in the U.S. can lead to neck and back injuries and pain.
Other causes of neck and back pain include muscle strains, joints that are worn out, and nerve compression. Some diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can cause neck and back pain too.
When you’re dealing with pain and injuries, you should never workout without first talking to your health care provider, but if they give you the green light, there are exercises you can do that will help you stay in shape and also perhaps reduce your pain at the same time.
Strengthen Your Back and Core
The best thing you can do for your entire body and especially if you have neck and back pain is to strengthen your muscles. In particular, your core muscles are important.
There are low-impact ways you can strengthen your core without putting unnecessary strain on your back or neck.
Some examples of core-strengthening exercises that shouldn’t put too much strain on your neck or back include:
- A hip bridge can help strengthen your core and lower back and may also give you some improvements in mobility. To do a hip bridge, lie on your back on the floor and lift your hips off the ground. Squeeze your bottom as you lift and hold for a few counts if you can.
- The bird dog is a gentle way to build core stability and strength. On the floor, on all fours, have your knees hip-width apart. Then, with your spine flat and your core tight, extend your right leg back behind you and your left arm straight ahead of you. Hold it for a few seconds and repeat on alternating sides.
- A knee to chest movement can help your beck and neck. To do this, simply lie back flat with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Have your feet hip-width apart and bring one knee to your chest, with your other foot flat. Keep your lower back flat on the floor. Hold your knee toward your chest for around 15 seconds, and lower it. Repeat on the other side.
Getting into a regular yoga practice can be a great option for people who struggle with neck or back pain, injuries, or any kind of chronic pain. Yoga is great not only for your physical health but your mental health as well.
What you do have to think about with yoga, especially if you deal with pain, is that it can take some time to find the right class or style for you.
You want to experiment a bit to find the pace and type of instruction that you feel is best suited to you individually.
There are plenty of gentle styles of yoga that would be well-suited to someone who wanted to stay fit while dealing with an injury or pain.
For example, Hatha yoga is a style that focuses quite a bit on rest and restoration.
Cardio exercise is important for everyone. You should aim to get at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping exercise a week, because it can keep your weight down, help your heart, and reduce blood pressure, among other benefits.
Even with neck and back pain or potential injuries, there are certain types of cardio you may be able to do, as long as you check with your doctor first.
Swimming is an excellent option because it provides you with that important cardio exercise, and can also help you strengthen muscles, but it’s gentle. If you don’t want to swim, you can try water aerobics.
Certain kinds of dance classes can be a good way to get cardio, as can walking.
Elliptical machines tend to be gentle enough that for most people with neck or back pain, they can be used safely.
As far as more strenuous exercises such as cycling or spinning, this is something to be cautious with at least in the early days of an injury. Stair-climbing machines can be tough for people with back pain, and jogging is high-impact, so again, you might want to avoid it, especially if you’ve been injured recently.
Overall, don’t let an injury or pain stop you from being fit and healthy. As long as your doctor gives you the go-ahead, working out is important to reduce pain and heal from injuries.