What time of day should I exercise if I have back pain?

Recent reading has led me to the work of Dr. Stuart McGill Dr who is a professor at the University of Waterloo. His laboratory and experimental research clinic investigated issues related to the causal mechanisms of back pain, how to rehabilitate back-pained people and enhance both injury resilience and performance.

Dr McGill has made some fantastic observations on spine stiffness first thing in the morning. Basically, when we lay down to sleep at night, our spine is decompressed, so the intervertebral discs actually collect water.  This increased hydration status builds annular tension within the discs, and makes the spine stiffer overall.  By simply standing upright and moving around decreases the hydration status of the discs and reduces our height by a small amount. This height reduction reduces the spine stiffness and allows us to move the spine more safely and effectively.  While disc hydration diminishes over the course of the entire day, the majority of it occurs in the first hour that we’re awake.

If you’re someone with a history of back pain therefore, you’re probably best off not incorporating exercise first thing in the morning, especially if your workout includes a lot of bending and rotating. 

However if you are someone who only has the option of early morning exercise I’d encourage you to get up 30 minutes early and just focus on standing up, whether it’s to read the paper, pack your lunch, or take the dog for a walk.

In addition one of the biggest struggles a lot people have is actually getting warmed up in the morning.  So I’d suggest an early morning hot shower and since you’ll be standing in the shower, it also helps to accomplish the standing tip above!

At Rochdale Pilates and Yoga Studio we have classes across 7 days both in the mornings and evenings, so why not try a different time of day and see how it impacts your body and makes you feel.

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