If you’ve ever experienced low-back pain, you’re not alone. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million people in the United States suffer from lower back pain at any given time.
What’s more alarming, however, is that according to the Global Burden of Disease, it’s the single leading cause of disability around the world, with more than half of all adults in America admitting to having some sort of back pain symptoms each year.
Chronic lower back pain not only affects your health, but a survey by the APTA also found that 39% of adults reported that it impacts their ability to perform everyday tasks, and 37% responded that it also affects their sleep. Another study stated that more than half of people that suffer chronic pain suffer from poor sleep quality.
So, what can you do about it? We take a look at some of the best exercise equipment for lower back pain that you can use from the comfort of your own home.
Benefits of Exercise for Lower Back Pain
An appropriate fitness program will likely improve your overall health and well-being, whether you suffer from poor posture, chronic lower-back pain, a herniated disc, sciatica, sciatic nerve pain, or any other spinal disorder.
Any of these conditions likely made you lose muscle tone in your back muscles and made them weaker, leaving you without proper balance and support for your arms, shoulders, and upper body.
Therefore, in order to maintain spine health and ensure progress from chronic back pain, cardiovascular exercise is essential. Balancing cardio (or aerobic exercise), which gets your heart pumping, with anaerobic strengthening exercises will give you both physical and mental benefits, including:
Exercise has many physical benefits, but the mental health benefits are also substantial. Cardio promotes the release of endorphins, which are biological chemicals that produce overall positive feelings and naturally help alleviate pain. Therefore, cardiovascular exercise plays a key role in assisting to decrease the sensation of pain and increase positive feelings.
When you have ready access to exercise equipment to use at home, it’s easier to begin and maintain an exercise program. Some of the benefits of exercising at home include:
Even with knowing the mental and physical benefits of exercise, it can be somewhat confusing to understand which lower back exercise equipment to purchase, and not buying the correct one can be detrimental to your physical health, as well as taking a hit on your finances.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Exercise Equipment To Use At Home
The home exercise equipment we focus on in this article are all gentle on your spine and lower back, while providing an adequate cardiovascular workout that can easily be incorporated into your exercise routine.
When picking out the best exercise equipment for lower back pain relief, consider the following:
The type of exercise you most enjoy: If you enjoy a particular form of exercise such as walking, choose equipment that mimics that activity, such as a treadmill.
The variety the exercise equipment provides: You can get a more varied workout when the machine has different uses or adjustable positions, speeds, and resistance. Therefore, as you’re developing more endurance and a higher fitness level, you can increase the difficulty of the activity.
Storage and location: Some machines can be adjusted or folded for more accessible storage, but some machines can’t be quickly moved without heavy pushing or lifting, which may not be desirable or possible for people with low-back pain. Therefore, take into consideration the size and location of the machine, and if you want to store it, can it be done easily?
Cost: Exercise equipment can be very costly, ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands, so if you’re on a budget, consider purchasing second-hand equipment.
Best Cardio Machine for Lower Back Pain
The best cardio machine for lower back pain is one that you are able to commit to using and able to use even on days when you are in some discomfort from lower back pain, and the last thing on your mind is working out.
That being said, the most popular exercise equipment that is recommended by medical professionals are ellipticals, stationary bikes, and treadmills.
All three machines are fantastic choices for people that suffer from lower back pain, as they don’t put any strain on your back, but they still offer effective and gentle movement opportunities. Prior to you making a commitment, it’s essential that you spend some time learning about all available options and making a choice based on your specific requirements.
Elliptical trainers are particularly good at reducing back pain thanks to their reasonably smooth pattern of movement, and they offer a great workout. One of the best things about elliptical trainers is their built-in digital programs, allowing you to pick a program with various resistance, and one that fits your needs. The benefit is that as your back muscles strengthen, you can gradually increase the resistance, slowly building your strength back up.
Benefits of Using an Elliptical Trainer
If your primary concern is losing weight or getting in shape, the best machine to accomplish these objectives is the elliptical. The Mayo Clinic estimates that using a treadmill for an hour burns around 314 calories, whereas a person using an elliptical machine would burn about 365 calories.
Drawbacks of Using an Elliptical Trainer
Things to Consider Before Buying an Elliptical Machine
An ideal situation would be for you to try out various elliptical machines at your local sporting goods store or gym, to make sure it suits the space in your home where you would keep it, as well as your exercise program.
Before making the purchase, consider the following:
- Stride length and adjustability: Some elliptical trainers only have a stride length that’s pre-set, and is not appropriate for you. If possible, choose a machine that has adjustable stride lengths, allowing you to set the one that’s most comfortable.
- Pedals and arm handles motion: The motion should be consistent and smooth, as any catching or jarring will place stress on your joints, and interrupt your flow.
- Weight support: Some machines have lower weight support, only handling a maximum of 200 lbs. Look for a machine that will support your weight.
- Operating noise level: Some elliptical machines are noisier, and could interfere with other activities, such as listening to music or watching TV while exercising or end up overwhelming you with the noise.
- Repairs and parts availability: When you are able to repair the machine or get any spare parts easily, you are more likely to exercise consistently and not interrupt your routine.
Stationary bikes are easy to use and provide a no-impact cardiovascular workout, which tones and strengthens your lower body muscles. A key thing about stationary bikes is really focusing on your body position. Commonly, the most comfortable position is a slightly forward bend, as if you were riding a standard bicycle.
As with an elliptical trainer, a stationary bike is a low-impact exercise equipment that has a rotation motion, with the difference being that the bike will go in circles, instead of a more elongated egg-shaped movement.
Bikes have gained popularity in the past years due to spinning and cycling classes, along with the need of an older public to seek a lower-impact form of exercise. Newer models are more sophisticated, and not only track speed and miles, but they now also have multiple programs that can change and manage exercise pace, measure your heart rate, and count the number of calories you burned during your workout. Modern machines even have an internet connection, which allows you to keep a record of your sessions online so that you can chart your progress.
Two main types of stationary bikes exist in today’s market: upright and recumbent. Upright bikes look like regular bikes, with their handlebars in the front and a vertical orientation. The difference with recumbent bikes is that the user is seated against a backrest, and their legs are in front of them.
While there are differing opinions on which bike offers the most health benefits, most experts agree that the bike you choose boils down to personal preference. For people who suffer from lower back pain, a lot will depend on how comfortable you are while in a sitting position, or reclining position.
An upright exercise bike will allow for a broader movement variety, such as being in a racing position or riding while standing, so you can exercise more muscle groups by switching your position. Furthermore, people with osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis could find that leaning forward is more comfortable for them.
A recumbent stationary bike could be relatively more comfortable for some people to use, as they receive additional balance from the backrest. For people with mechanical low back pain, the reclining position and back support may bring them more comfort, as the back is fully supported. With this type of bike, your legs do most of the work without straining the back, thanks to the supporting arms and the seat style.
Benefits of Using a Stationary Bike
Drawbacks of Using a Stationary Bike
Things to Consider Before Buying a Stationary Bike
Testing the bike you want to buy at the store or gym previous to making the purchase increases your chances of finding the appropriate bike for you.
When trying out bikes, consider the following:
- Seat adjustability: The seat should be easy to adjust, and it should be at hip height for comfortable riding. On recumbent bikes, your back needs to feel fully supported, and you need to have proper posture. The pedals need to have a strap to keep your feet in place, and be wide enough for your feet to feel secure.
- Covered chain and wheel: This will minimize the amount of dust and debris that can settle on them, which can clog the mechanism. A covered chain and wheel will also prevent your fingers from getting caught in them, and reduce machine noise.
- Monitor: You should be able to easily read the monitor, which should display: resistance level, calories burned, time, speed, and distance.
- Space between the seat and the handles: There should be enough space so you can get on and off quickly.
- Front wheel weight: Heavier front wheels means a more stable stationary bike.
- Heart rate monitor: A bike with a heart rate monitor will allow you to measure your heart rate and ensure your exertion level is appropriate.
Treadmills are one of the most popular home exercise equipment, as they provide an efficient and straightforward aerobic workout. Treadmills are an excellent choice for people who are starting out a workout routine, as most individuals tolerate waking, regardless of any chronic back pain or fitness level. As you develop endurance and strength, the treadmill can then be used for interval training and/or jogging.
Benefits of Using a Treadmill
Drawbacks of Using a Treadmill
Things to Consider Before Buying a Treadmill
Treadmills, like elliptical trainers or stationary bikes, can be expensive, so we recommend trying out a variety of different models, so you can find the machine that has the right feature combination that you require.
Some things you need to take into consideration include:
- Running surface area: This area should be both wide and long enough to accommodate your typical running or walking stride, to avoid you tripping or falling.
- Motor power: Most treadmill models have a continuous power rating (commonly ranging from 1 to 3), and the higher the rating, the more powerful the motor, and smoother the motion.
- Quality of cushioning: The cushioning should provide enough absorption that it minimizes joint impact, but not be so bouncy that you feel unstable.
- Controls: Controls should be easy to read, program, and use.
- Noise level: Check the noise level while in walking and running mode, to ensure that it’s acceptable.
Lower back pain does not need to be a deterrent for you to achieve your fitness goals and lead an active life. All the machines above are proof that there is no need to stop exercising (or not even start!) just due to the fact that you suffer from back pain.
Consult a medical professional or physical therapist in order to carefully construct a customized exercise program, to take necessary steps towards regaining your health, increase your chances of recovery, and have an overall sense of wellbeing.