Once upon a time, ages ago actually, experts used to think that if you suffer from lower back pain, you should avoid exercising altogether and focus on resting and laying in bed as much as you can.
If you suffer from back pain, then in almost all cases, you should exercise and do cardio (but do talk to your doctor before).
As long as you use the right exercise equipment for your back issues, you can lose weight and alleviate back pain. There's no need to go to the gym, you can do it at your own home, at your convenience.
If you have a bad back and want to start an at-home workout program, then purchasing the right machine is critical.
You need to know what is the best machine for cardio and exercise for those with back pain or Sciatica, and what machines to avoid at all costs.
Exercise can relieve back pain and speed up healing by stimulating blood flow to your problem area.
Doctor Hochschuler, MD, a renowned orthopedic surgeon, points out how exercise relieves pain by supplying natural lubrication to your lumbar discs, and keeping your back discs elastic.
At best, the right kind of exercise might put an end to your chronic back pain or at least improve the situation so that you can get more out of life.
THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE FOR YOUR BACK
ELLIPTICAL CROSS-TRAINERS FOR BACK PAIN
Physiotherapists and fitness professionals have long been recommending people with back pain to use elliptical machines.
The elliptical trainer mimics a natural walking stride without the impact of your foot hitting the floor as your feet are always "in the air."
If you suffer from back pain than an exercise like running isn' probably what's right for you. The shock your feet get from running goes up to your spine through your legs.
The elliptical trainer is capable of delivering a fantastic workout that is low impact, a key advantage if you suffer from low back pain. If you ever had back injury such as a herniated disc as I did, you would know how painful the "wrong" step on the ground could be for your back.
The foot pedals on the elliptical run on an oval-shaped track, allowing for a fluid motion that never jars or jolts. If you choose to use the moving handlebars, it is important to realize that this may cause a slight twisting motion of your back. Depending on your particular back condition, this may be slightly painful or uncomfortable but non-harmful in most situations.
How Much Do Ellipticals Cost?
Elliptical trainers are available in a wide range of prices, but many home ellipticals are surprisingly affordable (some under $200) though they may have fewer features.
If your budget allows the more advanced home ellipticals are sturdier and offer smoother movement, more workout programs, and better displays. You can get the highest rated home ellipticals for way under $1000 (some for about $500).
Make sure you have enough space
Be aware that some elliptical machines can take up quite a bit of space.
Figure out where you're going to keep it and take precise measurements before you shop.
Consider the height of the machine as well. If you're going to place it in a basement or other room with a lower ceiling, it may not work.
Are Ellipticals Recommended For Back Pain?
The elliptical trainer is one of the best machines for people with a bad back.
It provides a zero impact cardio workout that not only would not worsen an existing back condition but can help to speed up the healing of some back injuries, that's why we it's a smart buy.
IS NO IMPACT RUNNING POSSIBLE?
Running is great and is probably my favorite cardio exercise. I see no problem with running, and I love the treadmill.
But sometimes when your back hurts, running at high speed, whether on the treadmill or outdoor, isn't exactly the right thing to do.
That's precisely what happened to me a week ago before updating this article. I had a scooter accident, and while I'm otherwise ok, my lower back hurts when I'm doing certain movements.
I tried running on the treadmill, and at a low speed, like 5 mph and it was uncomfortable but bearable. However, anything over 6 mph and my back signals me "no way man", and although I love ellipticals, I miss my runs.
Ellipticals are great, but some people don't like the constraint fixes motion of the movement. An elliptical has its own motion that is not the same as running.
Enter the Zero Runner:
Octane Fitness makes a unique machine that mimics the motion of running yet without the impact you feel when running on a treadmill or outdoors.
The big difference with the Zero Runner is that it provides freedom of motion similar to running. Something that a traditional elliptical doesn't offer.
If you have lower back pain but love running, the Zero Runner is a godsend. However, before you get all too excited and reach to your wallet, you should know that the machine is quite expensive. You can read my review of the Zero Runner and then decide if it's a good fit for you.
TREADMILLS FOR BACK PAIN
Running may be out of the question for some back pain sufferers, but walking is very good for your back. If you suffer from back pain or Sciatica, a good walking treadmill may be all you need.
Walking on a treadmill is a lower impact activity than walking in the real world. That's because the treadmill's belt helps to propel each step as well as providing a softer surface than you're likely to find in the city (unless you are walking on a soft surface like the beach)
Treadmills provide a predictable walking surface which is a plus if your back is so sensitive that even the slightest "wrong" movements can trigger an "ouch".
Walking on uneven surfaces such as trails, or even sidewalks which have holes and cracks, may end up tweaking your back, something that won't happen when walking on a treadmill.
Dr. Jeff Winternheimer D.C. of Illinois Back Institute recommends walking for back pain and Sciatica
Getting Started With a Treadmill
If you suffer from back pain or any back discomfort for that matter, it's best that you start at a slow walking pace on the treadmill.
It's usually not recommended that you hold on to the bar in front of you or the handrails beside you on the treadmill.
If you find that holding is necessary, then you are probably walking faster than you should be. Holding on to the treadmill while you exercise is a bad idea because it restricts your torso from making a natural motion, this isn't good for your back. Use the treadmill the right way, as if you are walking outdoor and there are no bars to hold.
How Much Do Treadmills Cost?
Treadmills usually cost a little bit more than ellipticals do, mainly because they contain a more sophisticated mechanics and a built-in motor unit.
You can get an excellent home treadmill for under $500. The Exerpeutic TF1000 is a terrific low-budget walking-only treadmill that is more than enough if you don't plan to use a treadmill for running in the future.
The Exerpeutic TF1000 walking treadmill is also great for overweight people due to its 400 lb weight capacity. Big guys are better off buying treadmills with higher weight capacities because these treadmills have much better shock absorption.
Should you use a treadmill if you suffer from BACK pain OR SCIATICA?
Walking is the most natural movement there is, so in most cases, you can't go wrong going for a treadmill.
You already know how to walk, and you'll probably get familiar with a treadmill much quicker than you would with other cardio equipment.
That's why physiotherapists and doctors like to recommend walking treadmills for people with back problems.
USING STEPPER MACHINES WITH BACK PAIN
The stepper is a very compact machine that two individual pedals like an elliptical does but without the handlebars and bulky frame.
Some people like comparing the stepper with an elliptical but they are slightly different not only in size but also in the way they work your body.
In an elliptical machine you are striding, in a stepper machine, you are stepping. The movement in the stepper is more limited than in the elliptical, the range of motion is also shorter as you are essentially stepping in place.
Some manufacturers refer to their steppers as elliptical even in the absence of handles. You may think the lack of handles is a disadvantage, and it certainly can be seen as one.
But it can also be seen as an advantage since of the lack of something to hold on to means you have to use your core for balance. That's great, but if you suffer from back pain, that balancing could be a little bit too much and too soon.
A workaround is that you could place the stepper at home in an area near arm level furniture or something else that you can hold for a little support when you feel you need it.
How Much Does a Stepper Machine Cost?
One of the greatest advantages of the stepper machine is an economic one.
Stepper machines are among the cheapest cardio machines around. Since they are far less complex than other home exercise equipment, you can get a pretty good stepper for around $100. The Stamina In-Motion Elliptical Stepper is considered one of the best steppers around.
The other advantage with steppers is size. These machines tend to be very compact and designed to be easily packed away in between uses.
Are Stepper Machines Good or Bad for your back?
It's highly individual and depends on your back condition, but generally, if you have just recently injured your back, you may want to get a treadmill or an elliptical over a stepper machine, at least for the very beginning.
For most other kinds of back pain, a stepper should be fine.
If there's a chance for you to test a stepper at a sports outlet give it ago and see if you feel any discomfort.
STATIONARY EXERCISE BIKES FOR BACK PAIN
There are two main choices when comes to exercise bikes.
The upright bike and the recumbent bike. Depending upon the type of back pain you suffer, either one could be ideal for you.
UPRIGHT EXERCISE BIKES
An upright exercise bike may be appropriate for you if you suffer from a condition like spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis. Leaning forward when using an upright exercise bike can provide pain relief for people with these medical conditions
Alternatively, if you suffer from lower back pain you will likely feel more comfortable on a recumbent bike.
RECUMBENT EXERCISE BIKES
Recumbent exercise stationary bikes have a supportive supportive backrest, Making them very comfortable to use even for extended periods of exercise.
All exercise bikes have minimal impact on your joints, but recumbent exercise bikes, in particular, in very unlikely to irritate your back.
Perhaps the biggest drawback with a stationary exercise bike is that this movement does nothing to tone or strengthen the upper body or core. Since core strength is essential to alleviating back pain in the long run, you'll be better off, incorporating some upper body and core strength training into your routine.
To learn more about the benefits of recumbent exercise bikes click here.
Should You Use an Exercise Bike If You Have Back Pain
Stationary bikes are fantastic machines for losing weight and getting fit. They will also help your back to some extent, mainly by strengthening your legs.
For some people who suffer from back pain, recumbent exercise bikes can be a very good choice.
However, if your back condition does allow you to walk, even at a slow pace, we feel treadmills and ellipticals can do a slightly better job.
WHOLE BODY VIBRATION PLATFORMS (WBV)
Whole body vibration platforms, also known as WBV are not as well as popular as the other cardio equipment we covered here, yet, they have unique benefits for someone suffering from back pain.
There are three ways you could use vibration platforms, you can sit, stand or lay down on the platform. Many people perform stretches or strength-training exercises while the platform is operating.
Experts suggest that using it a few times a week may speed up the loss of fat and help with losing weight.
Some people have experienced improved flexibility, and researchers say that whole-body vibration may lessen the production of the stress hormone called cortisol.
Are Whole Body Vibration Platforms Good or Bad For Your Back?
There's a lot of debate whether whole body vibration platforms help with back pain. But it's a fact that they are already being used nationwide by many chiropractors and physiotherapists to relieve back pain in addition to conventional practice.
Experts believe that using a vibration platform will relieve symptoms of back pain and not cause them.
Another study found that six months of WBV increased the bone density in the spine area of postmenopausal women. But other researches are more skeptical and want to see more evidence.
If you have a severe back condition, or other medical conditions such as a hernia, heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy or any other condition, do not use a vibration machine before checking with a physician.
How Much Does a Vibration Platform Cost?
You can get excellent home grade vibration platforms for around $150 to $250, not much compared to other home exercise equipment.
Some of them come with resistance bands to make it easier for you to do strength-training while on the platform.
Most WBV platforms are quite small and portable, so you can easily store them away when not in use.
SO WHAT'S THE BEST CARDIO MACHINE FOR YOUR BACK?
We generally recommend a treadmill, such as the Exerpeutic TF1000 walking treadmill (we reviewed the best treadmills for home here).
We also can't help but join the recommendations of most health professionals in suggesting an elliptical cross-trainer. An elliptical is a cardio machine that is both good for your back as well as for overall health (You can find ellipticals under $200 here or if you want to invest in higher-end models look here)
If for whatever reason, you don't like treadmills or ellipticals, then, stepper machines or upright and recumbent exercise bikes are great alternative ways to workout even with back issues.
The Zero Runner from Octane Fitness is a fantastic machine that mimics the freedom of movement of real running but with no impact. The only downside is its high price tag that is beyond the budget of most folks.
Whole body vibration platforms (WBV) can provide back pain relief and improved healing when used wisely (see: recommended whole body vibration platforms) .
But WBV platforms don't give the same cardiovascular benefits as other equipment do. If you want to use a WBV platform, we highly recommend you also use a treadmill, an elliptical or an exercise bike.
Ultimately, the best cardio machine for you should be one that will be easy on your back while helping to reduce back pain, but it should also be a machine that you will be comfortable with using.
If for whatever reason, you simply don't like treadmills, then go for an elliptical, an exercise bike or a stepper instead and vice versa. There is no point in buying any equipment if you aren't going to use it past the first two weeks.
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