In a separate post this month, we talked about the frustration of not being able to exercise when recovering from knee and back pain associated with gait issues. While any foot clinic in Toronto will tell you to refrain from strenuous exercise beyond light walking, stretching and a bit of core work when you are recovering from acute pain and addressing your gait issues, there are a few forms of low impact exercise that are sometimes acceptable for those who can’t live without regular cardio.
Cycling might be okay if your pain is not too intense, however, because your back is in flexion when you’re on your bike, it may aggravate your back pain if you cycle vigorously for long periods of time. Elliptical machines at the gym pose a similar program: working out on these machines is much better than running, however, if you suffer from knee problems, extended use will aggravate those issues. Cycling and elliptical machines might be okay in moderation, just listen to your body and don’t overdo it.
Pilates strengthens the core which supports the back, and thus, attending a gentle Pilates class with a knowledgeable instructor can be incredibly beneficial. Again, moderation is best since engaging the core for extended periods every day may do more harm than good. Yoga comes in many different flavours, with Yin yoga (a calm, restorative practice) on one end of the spectrum and Bikram (hot yoga originally designed as a military practice) on the other. Doing something closer to Yin might be wise if you are in recovery, but as you feel stronger you might try a Moksha flow class, which is moderate in intensity. If you’re suffering from back pain related to the feet, hot yoga will increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your back muscles and relieve the discomfort.
While the above exercises have their pros and cons, swimming is pretty much all pro. As with anything else, we’d urge you to listen to your body and take it slow, but because you are liberated from gravity in the swimming pool, the likelihood of injury through repeated impact is very low. Swimming is great cardio, which means it’s good for your heart, and since common strokes like the crawl, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly mainly involve the upper body as well as the legs, your whole body gets toned and strong. When we’re working with avid runners on the mend, we often recommend swimming, since it creates a similar endorphin rush without aggravating knee and back pain or messing with gait adjustments. If you’re new to swimming, we’ll point out that it’s prudent to wear flip-flops in the deck and in the showers – otherwise you may need to get your plantar warts removed in the not-too-distant future.
For many, it’s a relief knowing that there are low impact exercise alternatives to explore while they are reaping the early benefits of gait analysis and correction. We want our patients to stay active, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of healing and correction!