Can Trampolining Hurt Your Back?
Trampolining, under the right conditions, can be one of the safest exercises for your back available. While not for everybody, trampoline rebounding can be an incredible form of fun and exercise which builds cardiovascular health and improves body function while keeping the spine in good order.
Benefits of Trampolining
There are a number of ways that rebounding on a trampoline can be helpful to a wide range of people.
Perhaps the most obvious way that it can help people is that it’s incredible exercise. 20 minutes of bouncing on a trampoline can be as effective as an hour of running. This is because it utilizes your whole body during the workout, requiring that almost every muscle contribute to each bounce. While the legs take the brunt of the work, we all make unconscious movements in order to keep our balance on the shifting floor and while in midair. This means that your whole body is working in an attempt to keep you upright and maintain equilibrium. Combine that with the activity itself which can get your heart moving into the proper zone and you have an incredibly healthy workout.
However, that isn’t where the benefits stop. Increased activity at this level can also help get body functions working properly. For example, it’s been reported that the subtle resistance to gravity experienced in rebounding increases cell function and production, helping the building blocks of your body work at better rates and produce stronger replacements. In much the same way we take antioxidants to promote good cell health, so too can we use trampolining to do so.
Keep in mind, this isn’t just skin cells. Functional cells like red blood cells, which transport oxygen, or white blood cells, which kill diseases, also show an improvement in production and performance according to these reports. That’s one of the reasons why it seems that trampolining can help build up ones’ immune system, making it better at killing bacteria and viruses so that you spend fewer days sick.
What About the Back?
Not only is trampolining not bad for your back in most cases, it can actually be good for you. On top of having a positive effect on your heart, cells, and immune system, it can also improve your flexibility, back strength, and disc function.
The first thing to understand about back problems is that a large proportion of them are caused by consistent shocks to the back. While you may be thinking, “but I don’t shock my back that much,” the very act of walking can cause this problem. Human beings have very little shock absorption built in. It’s why we make sure that our shoes have padding in them, a tradition going back to medieval times when people would stuff their shoes with sheep skin to make walking more comfortable.
So even if you don’t regularly jump off of buildings or fall on your back, over time the impact of hitting the ground thousands of times every day will eventually catch up with you. This is made even worse when your primary form for cardiovascular exercise is something like running, which puts all of your weight of the balls of your feet, limiting the surface area for the impact and sending that energy up your leg, into your pelvis, and right up your spine.
Trampolining addresses this issue in a number of ways.
The first and most obvious is that a trampoline is a shock absorber. The way that it’s built means that when you land on one, instead of sending all of that energy caused by your weight collapsing to the mat right back up your body, the trampoline mat sends that energy up to launch you back into the air and any remaining force goes through the springs, into the frame, and down into the legs where it dissipates harmlessly in the ground. Think of it like this: you’re actually pushing the trampoline into the ground with every bounce, and since the ground doesn’t budge that much, whatever energy is left sends you flying. At no point, however, does that energy shock your spine because it has other outlets.
Another way that trampolining can help your back is by building your traps and other back muscles up. While daily shocks are a reality for any person who walks, one way to combat the effects of that is by having a strong back. As mentioned above, trampolining is a whole body workout which involves almost every muscle in some way, and that is no different for back muscles, which instinctually tense up when you hit the mat and release when you’re in the air. This can help contribute to balance, but mostly it’s a way to protect the spine. By rebounding on a trampoline, you are building the muscles which can tighten around your spine while walking or running, often in subtle ways, and take on the energy from those regular shocks, spreading them across the body and limiting the harm they cause.
In fact, trampolining doesn’t just help your back, but can strengthen your entire core, which helps not only deal with shock absorption, but also will naturally keep you sitting up straighter, walking taller, and treating your spine with the care it needs to keep you upright for decades to come.
Causes of Back Pain After Trampolining
Some people worry that they might have injured themselves while rebounding because they hurt a lot the next day. While this may be the case, there could be another solution: you may have just gotten a workout.
While it feels easy and fun, trampolining is really hard work as far as your body is concerned. It is consistently utilizing a wide range of muscle groups, getting your heart pumping, and using energy. If you did several sets of curls while at the gym, you wouldn’t be surprised if your biceps were sore the next day. That’s because strength exercises like curls or jumping on a trampoline actually tear your muscles, indicating to your body that it should use protein in your system to build them back stronger. That initial part where they are torn, though, is painful and results in soreness until the body is done doing its work. That’s why it’s a good idea to not work the same muscle groups on consecutive days.
One way to avoid this is by doing dynamic stretching before working out on a trampoline. Just like with any exercise, stretching before and after can go a long way toward reducing the chance of serious injury.
That being said, if the pain persists, you might want to consider seeing a doctor. If you are injured, continued activity can exacerbate it.
When Is It Not Healthy to Jump on a Trampoline
While all of this applies to most people, there are a few exceptions to the rules. Like with almost any form of exercise, depending on your body and current state of health, it might not be the best option for you.
If you already have moderate to severe back problems, jumping on a trampoline for extended periods could exacerbate the problem. In the same way that you wouldn’t run on a sprained ankle, you shouldn’t rebound if you have, for example, pinched nerves, osteoporosis, fractures, degenerative disc disease, or sciatica.
While the act of jumping on a trampoline is less directly harmful in certain ways because of the shock absorption, one way that it is different is compression. The act of falling and landing compresses your body as the full force of your weight keeps moving, even when you’ve briefly stopped (before being flung back up into the air). That can aggravate the discs between your vertebrae that are working to keep them from crashing into one another. If you have a pinched nerve, you can land in such a way that it pinches it more severely.
It’s important to stress, however, that not every trampoline exercise is necessarily eliminated for everyone with any of these conditions. Some might not be able to do any work on a large trampoline, but could be able to exercise on a mini tramp and still get similar benefits, for example.
The best option, if you have back problems or think that you may, is to contact your doctor and ask their advice. They will be able to tell you if trampolining might be the right option for you. Don’t assume, however, that just because your back problems are only active sometimes that it’s safe to start right away or that you don’t have a condition which would prevent you from getting the biggest possible benefits from rebounding.
Why Trampolining Might Be Right For You
Trampolining is not for everybody, but most people can get some significant benefits from working with one regularly. The trick is to make sure that you don’t have the kind of problem in advance that could result in making an injury or illness worse.
Other than that, far from being bad for your back, trampolining can actually be better for you than other forms of exercise.