July 7, 2014
Recently I have had a couple patients ask me if they could participate in Zumba classes without putting their backs at risk. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this low-impact dance aerobics class for those with a bad bad or those who have undergone back surgery. Even though it is low impact, it is fast paced and often performed on a hard surface. The quick movements, many of which twist the spine, combined with a hard surface can do much to throw off the alignment of the spine and exacerbate existent back problems. Zumba can also damage the back by increasing the pressure of existent muscle, skeletal or postural imbalances. For these reasons, I generally do not recommend that my patients take Zumba classes unless they already had a vigorous fitness routine that would help their body adapt to the movements of Zumba.
Other exercises I recommend to my patients who have undergone spine surgery or who are receiving treatment for back pain include Pilates, Soul Cycle, Restorative Yoga, swimming, walking, and resistance training with weights or bands. Low impact exercise is generally best for those with back problems, but low impact is not the only thing to consider, as we can see with Zumba. High speed twisting of the torso is not advisable for a spine patient. Pilates often involves twisting, but at a slower speed and more control. If you have any doubts about whether an exercise or workout is appropriate for you, it is best to check with your doctor to be sure. While a good workout can help your back pain, choosing the wrong one can do significant damage.