After a tough day at the gym, upper or lower back pain after a workout from muscle soreness might be inevitable. However, suffering from chronic back pain after exercising can make it difficult for you to maintain a regular workout routine and stay in shape.
Get rid of back pain after exercise by stretching out the sore muscles, applying heat or ice and taking over-the-counter pain medications. Maintain good posture and add back strengthening exercises to your routine to prevent future back pain.
Rule Out and Prevent Injury
Muscle soreness in your back after a workout may be normal, especially if you were targeting your back muscles or trying a new activity that engages your core. Prevent strains and overuse injuries that may cause pain by doing a warm-up and cool-down before and after each workout and always using proper form.
Be sure to increase the intensity of your workout slowly over time. Lifting too much weight or pushing beyond your ability may cause injury. Be sure to use proper equipment and ensure a safe environment. For example, if you are running, wear well-fitting running shoes in good condition and avoid concrete and rugged, uneven surfaces, advises MedlinePlus.
However, if you regularly experience back pain after a workout in the upper or lower back, it may be a sign of a more serious condition. If you experience lower or mid-back pain after a workout, some other possible causes include muscle strains, herniated discs, intervertebral disc degeneration, sciatica or spinal stenosis, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
If back pain comes on suddenly, does not improve or includes sharp pains, this may be a sign of a more serious condition or injury. Stop exercising and consult your doctor.
Stretch and Strengthen
Relieve back pain after a workout by doing some forward and backward stretches, advises the University of Michigan's University Health Service. For example, to stretch backward, start by standing straight and place your hands on your lower back. Keeping your knees straight, bend backward from your waist and then return to the starting position. Be sure not to stretch too far back and stop if you feel any pain.
Then, try a forward stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Bring both knees up to your chest, one at a time, and hug your knees into your chest, feeling the stretch in your lower back. Then, return to the starting position. You can repeat these stretches throughout the day to relieve back pain.
Finally, be sure to include back and core strengthening exercises in your routine. For example, try the opposite arm and leg lift. Start on your hands and knees. Keeping your back flat and core engaged, slowly raise your right arm and your left leg until they are in a straight line with your back. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower to the original position and repeat on the other side.
Other Treatment Options
Applying heat or ice for up to 20 minutes per session to the painful muscles may help lessen the pain. During the first two days after the onset of pain, use only cold on the area. Do not apply heat, states the University of Michigan's Health Service. After the 48 hours, use heat or ice based on what feels best for your body.
If back pain or soreness is severe, consider taking a few days off from your normal workout routine. Maintain good posture throughout the day and consider taking over-the-counter pain relievers. Sleeping on your side with knees curled up may also help release muscle stiffness and decrease pain.
In more severe cases, consider additional therapies. For example, your doctor may recommend sessions with a physical therapist to correct your body position and strengthen muscles. Chiropractic adjustments or acupuncture treatments may also decrease your discomfort, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.