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Getting plenty of exercise and participating in sports is beneficial to one’s overall health. It also enhances pleasure and well-being. Almost every sport puts some strain on your spine. That is why it is critical to maintain the flexibility and strength of the muscles and ligaments that support your spine. A healthy spine can help prevent many back pain injuries during sports.

Core strengthening is the process of getting these muscles to the point where they can adequately support your spine. Inquire with your doctor or physical therapist about these strengthening exercises. If you’ve had a back injury, talk to your doctor about how to keep your back safe when you return to sports.

BICYCLING

Although bicycling strengthens the muscles in your legs, it has little effect on the muscles that surround your spine. Long periods of bending your lower spine forward while arching your upper back can strain your back and neck muscles. Mountain biking on uneven terrain can result in jarring and sudden compressions (squeezing) of the spine.

Tips to help make bicycling easier on your back include:

  • Avoid mountain biking
  • Ride a bike that fits you properly. Staff at a good bike shop can help you get fitted
  • Remember not only to push down on the pedals, but also to pull up on them
  • Wear biking gloves and use a handlebar cover to reduce jarring in your upper body
  • Put shock absorbers on the front wheel
  • A more upright bike can have less pressure on your lower back and neck
  • Recumbent bikes place less stress on your back and neck

Flexors are the muscles that bring your leg up toward your abdomen. They are frequently used when riding a bicycle. Keeping these muscles stretched out is important because it helps keep the muscles around your spine and hips in proper balance.

WEIGHTLIFTING

Weightlifting can be very stressful on the spine. This is especially true for people in their forties and fifties, as their spinal disks may dry out and become thinner and more brittle with age. Disks are the “cushions” between your spine’s bones (vertebrae).

Weightlifters are at risk for spondylolysis, a type of stress fracture in the back, in addition to muscle and ligament injuries. To prevent injuries when weightlifting:

  • Do some aerobic exercise and stretch well before lifting to warm up your muscles
  • Instead of free weights, use training machines. These machines are less stressful on your spine and do not require the use of a spotter. Training machines are also less difficult to use than free weights
  • Do more repetitions instead of adding more weight when you are trying to build strength
  • Lift only as much as you can safely lift. Don’t add too much weight
  • Learn the proper lifting techniques from someone who is well trained. Technique is important
  • Certain weightlifting exercises are more stressful on your spine than others. Squats, clean-and-jerks, snatches, and deadlifts are a few examples
  • Ask your trainer whether a weightlifting belt would be helpful for you

GOLF

The golf swing necessitates a strong rotation of your spine, putting strain on your spinal muscles, ligaments, joints, and disks.

Among the suggestions for relieving stress are:

  • Ask your physical therapist about the best posture and technique for your swing
  • Warm up and stretch your muscles in your back and upper legs before starting a round
  • Bend with your knees when picking up the golf ball
  • On the course, use a push cart (trolley) to wheel your golf bag. You can also drive a golf cart

RUNNING

Facet joints refer to the disks and small joints in the back. Running causes jarring and compression on these areas of your lumbar spine on a regular basis.

Here are some suggestions to help you reduce the stress on your spine:

  • Avoid running on concrete and uneven surfaces. Instead run on a padded track or soft, even grassy surfaces
  • Wear high-quality running shoes with good cushioning. Replace them when they become worn
  • Check with your physical therapist about the proper running form and motion. Most experts recommend moving forward in a forward motion, leading with your chest and keeping your head balanced over your chest
  • Warm up and stretch the muscles in your legs and lower back before embarking on a longer run. Learn exercises to strengthen the core muscles that support your spine deep inside your abdomen and pelvis

TENNIS

Overextending (arching) your back when serving, constant stopping and starting motions, and forceful twisting of your spine when taking shots are all motions that put strain on your spine while playing tennis.

A tennis coach or a physical therapist can demonstrate various techniques that can help you reduce the stress on your back. For example:

  • Bend your knees
  • Your spine will be less stressed if you keep your abdominal muscles tight. In order to avoid overextending your lower back, ask about the best ways to serve

Always warm up and stretch the muscles in your legs and lower back before playing. Learn exercises to strengthen the core muscles that support your spine, which are located deep inside your abdomen and pelvis.

SKIING

Learn exercises to strengthen the core muscles deep inside your spine and pelvis before returning to skiing after a back injury. A physical therapist may also assist you in developing strength and flexibility in the muscles used when twisting and turning while skiing.

Warm up and stretch the muscles in your legs and lower back before you begin skiing. Make sure you only ski down slopes that are appropriate for your skill level.

SWIMMING

Although swimming can strengthen the muscles and ligaments in your spine and legs, it can also stress your spine by:

  • Keeping your lower back extended (arched) when doing strokes on your stomach, such as the crawl or the breaststroke
  • Turning your neck back every time you take a breath

These movements can be avoided by swimming on your side or back. Using a snorkel and mask may help reduce neck turning when breathing. Swimming technique is also very important. This includes keeping your body level in the water, slightly tightening your abdominal muscles, and keeping your head on the water’s surface rather than holding it in a lifted position.

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