Improved coordination, agility and cardiovascular health are just three of the benefits to jumping rope for as little as five to 10 minutes a day. It is easy equipment for travel, and the exercise is fun; but, what if jump rope makes your back hurt? Are your rope jumping days over? Maybe not.
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Tight hamstrings and calf muscles are most often the culprit for low back pain. A tight muscle is a weak muscle and when it is forced to deal with a sport that requires high impact with high velocity repetitions, the muscles cannot keep up. The muscles then pull on their bony attachments causing irritation. The calf and hamstring muscles in particular will pull on the lower spine or the sciatic nerve, causing pain.
Another possibility is sacroiliac joint dysfunction. This joint anchors each end of the pelvis to the sacrum, in the center, and can become hypermobile from blunt trauma or pregnancy. Repetitive jumping motion could aggravate this joint as it struggles to stabilize the pelvis.
Upper back pain is most often associated with muscle weakness and tightness in the shoulder and neck stabilizing musculature. The rhomboids and trapezius muscles both have insertions in the upper spine and work to stabilize the shoulder, upper back and neck. High velocity rope spinning motion used in jumping rope can leave these stabilizing muscles tired, adding stress to the upper spine.
Stretching is paramount before and after performing strenuous exercise. You can use your jump rope to stretch your hamstring and calves. Long sit on the floor with your legs stretched in front of you. Hook your jump rope onto your foot, keep your knee flat and gently pull the rope. You should feel a mild hamstring and calf stretch. Hold the position for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each leg. Then stand up, interlace your fingers with your arms outstretched and palms facing out. Raise your arms straight up to the ceiling and slowly circle them to the floor and back up to the ceiling. You should feel a mild stretching throughout your upper back and shoulders, repeat three times
As with any exercise activity, move into it slowly. A beginners jump rope regimen may be two minutes a day three days a week. From there move up to five minutes a day three days a week. Slowly begin to incorporate jumping jacks, crossover and other advanced moves.
Bracing and Footwear
Wearing a sacroiliac belt -- a thin band that wraps around the hips and when tightened provides secure support of the pelvis and sacroiliac joints or a lumbrosacral brace -- a larger waist support that compresses the lumbar muscles decreasing muscle strain, may provide quick relief to your lower back.
Stay clear of concrete floors and thin footwear with little support. Gym mats and cross-trainer sneakers provide shock absorption that can disperse high impact forces from targeting your back.
Jumps should only be a few inches off the ground, just enough to clear the rope as opposed to jumping into the air. Also, knees should stay soft and, though you stay on the balls of your feet, think of keeping your heels down rather than jumping on tip-toe. If your knees are tight or you are landing harshly onto your heels, all of that shock radiates right up into your back.