Will Losing Weight Help My Back Pain?

July 9, 2014
Several of my patients have asked me if losing weight could help take pressure off of their spine and help ease their back pain. The answer is slightly more complex than a simple yes or no. Simply losing weight through the alteration of diet could diminish muscle mass, which could actually lessen the support that the spine is receiving.

On the other hand, a healthy diet when combined with a mixture of strength training and low impact cardio can help build new muscle and support the existing muscle while losing fat. As muscle is higher density than fat, the scale might not accurately predict the changes occurring in your body. It is important to track measurements with a tape measure as well as weighing in on the scale.

Resistance training is very important to helping minimize back pain. Strengthening the muscles of both the back and abdomen help to support the spine and decrease back pain. Strong muscles in the torso can do quite a lot to help support a compromised spine. Mobility training such as yoga or pilates can help increase flexibility and range of motion in those who have back pain or who have had back surgery. Exercise that is too fast or high impact should be avoided, as well as activities that involve twisting the torso.

As every patient is different, it is important to consult your doctor or physical therapist before you begin a new exercise routine. They should be able to tell you specific exercises that could help, as well as those you should avoid.

Can Zumba Hurt My Back?

July 7, 2014
Recently I have had a couple patients ask me if they could participate in Zumba classes without putting their backs at risk. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this low-impact dance aerobics class for those with a bad bad or those who have undergone back surgery. Even though it is low impact, it is fast paced and often performed on a hard surface. The quick movements, many of which twist the spine, combined with a hard surface can do much to throw off the alignment of the spine and exacerbate existent back problems. Zumba can also damage the back by increasing the pressure of existent muscle, skeletal or postural imbalances. For these reasons, I generally do not recommend that my patients take Zumba classes unless they already had a vigorous fitness routine that would help their body adapt to the movements of Zumba.

Other exercises I recommend to my patients who have undergone spine surgery or who are receiving treatment for back pain include Pilates, Soul Cycle, Restorative Yoga, swimming, walking, and resistance training with weights or bands. Low impact exercise is generally best for those with back problems, but low impact is not the only thing to consider, as we can see with Zumba. High speed twisting of the torso is not advisable for a spine patient. Pilates often involves twisting, but at a slower speed and more control. If you have any doubts about whether an exercise or workout is appropriate for you, it is best to check with your doctor to be sure. While a good workout can help your back pain, choosing the wrong one can do significant damage.