Mild to moderate spinal injuries include a slightly herniated disk to a fractured vertebra. When all of these injuries make it feel as though there is no way you can get out of bed and move, you should get out of bed and exercise all the same. There are many benefits to exercise when you have a spinal injury, but there are certain exercises you should do and a certain way you should do them.
Why You Should Exercise with a Spinal Injury
Exercise increases blood flow to an injured body part, thereby increasing the body's natural ability to heal itself and heal faster. Additionally, your body will produce endorphins in response to both exercise and pain, reducing your need for pain medication significantly. Exercise also elevates your mood, which can cause your injury to feel worse if and when you are depressed or "down in the dumps."
Types of Exercise You Can Do
Because you have an injury to your back, you do need to take things slowly and gently. You should not engage in medium impact or high impact exercise, such as jogging or running, since each footfall against the ground or hard surface will send a jolt up the spine and cause more pain. Instead, try water aerobics, which can help you keep moving while your body is comfortably suspended and buoyed up in the water. Pilates and yoga are also good for a mild to moderate spinal injury, since they can help strengthen your core muscles and safely and gently stretch the muscles surrounding the injured area in your back.
How to Exercise Safely
To get the most out of your exercise routine until your spine heals, you need to move carefully. Never extend yourself beyond the point of pain. If you begin to feel intense, hot/burning or tingling/stinging pain, stop. Take a few minutes out of the class or routine to recuperate. Return to the exercise only if you feel that your body can handle the next set of stretches or movements. Always choose exercises and stretches that are supported (e.g. on an inflated yoga/pilates ball, in the water, on an air walker machine, etc.). Within a few weeks (and with your doctor's okay) you can begin or try more intense exercises or workouts where your back is stretched and involved more than it was before. Always listen to your body and never push beyond your comfort limits, or you might have a longer recovery time instead of a shorter one.
For more information, contact Project Walk or a similar organization.