Today, Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Managing Lower Back Pain Through Exercise

Lower back pain is quite common among adults. Overuse of muscles in addition to strain and injury are the chief causes of this condition. Equally common is the tendency to cut back on exercise to accommodate the lower back pain.  Although it may seem counterintuitive, one of the very best ways of managing lower back pain is through exercise.

Despite the fact that exercise is considered to be one of the few non-invasive, moderately effective treatments for lower back pain, less than 15% of patients with lower back pain are given prescriptions for exercise by their doctors.  Not surprisingly, almost 64% of patients who visited physical therapists and 33% of patients visiting a chiropractor received prescriptions for exercise.  Many would argue that this is due to the medical profession's proclivity towards seeing pain medication as the solution. While pain medications offer the short term benefit of addressing acute pain, they really only apply bandages to the problem.

Why Does Exercise Help?

Taking it easy (e.g. resting or stopping strenuous activities for a day or two) may be recommended when one is initially experiencing acute pain, but in the long run this may undermine the healing of the lower back.

 The long term solution is to rehabilitate the spine and muscles of the back.  Managing lower back pain through exercise will help by allowing the body to better distribute nutrients to the lower back discs and tissues. Exercise will strengthen the muscles that provide support to your spine as you bend and lift.  It will minimize the recurrence of lower back pain by keeping the body flexible.  This combination of strength and flexibility will work toward minimizing repeat episodes of lower back pain and also work to reduce the length and severity of any future lower back injury. It will also improve your feeling of control over your own body.  Additionally, exercising to manage your lower back troubles will encourage the release of endorphins; neurotransmitters which are the body's natural painkillers.

Here are some key points to consider when managing lower back pain through exercising:

·         Rest and cut out strenuous activities for a day or two when you are experiencing acute pain.

·         Avoid using any furniture that does not support you correctly (this is particularly true if you work at a desk for long hours and have a non-supportive chair that encourages slumping positions).

·         In general, avoid any positions and activities that can cause and/or exacerbate lower back pain.

·         Use ice to prevent swelling after an injury.

·         Use over the counter drugs to provide immediate pain relief. Seek medical attention for injuries that have acute pain which is not relieved by these analgesics.

·         Begin gentle stretching and strengthening exercise when the acute pain no longer exists.

·         You do not need to go to a gym to perform these exercises and you do not need any special equipment at home.

·         It is very important to start out gradually.  Exercise activities need to build in duration and the strength required to perform them.  If you proceed too quickly, the probability of reinjuring your lower back muscles is very high.  The goal is to increase strength, increase flexibility, increase endurance, prevent re-injury and speed up recovery time (in the event of future injuries).

What is the Best Way to Get Started?

It is important that you learn to pace your activities.  The key concept behind developing an exercise program that you will stick with for the long haul is: build up gradually.  You must be able to challenge your body enough so that you continue to strengthen and improve but not proceed so quickly that new injuries can result or that exercise becomes unappealing (and consequently is discontinued).

Your lower back pain management program should include an aerobic portion and muscle strengthening exercises.

Walking is a great way to start.  It is a low impact exercise that can be varied on a daily basis and this will help to maintain interest in continuing it.  When starting you should make note of how far and long you can comfortably walk otherwise you may fail to realize how much progress you are making as time goes on.

Aerobic exercises will strengthen your heart as well as your other muscles.  It will help your body maintain health overall and this will speed recovery whenever you sustain an injury.  Aerobic exercises should be lead up to a minimum of three to four times a week for duration of at least 30 minutes (but you may need to start with walks ten minute durations).

Swimming is another low impact activity that has great aerobic benefits.  Walking in waist deep water is another activity that will work your legs and back.  Other aerobic activities include biking and jogging, though these are higher impact exercises.

Strengthening exercises for managing lower back pain should focus on your stomach, lower back and leg muscles.   There are many strength building exercise which include: knee to chest exercises, curl ups, buttocks squeeze, pelvic tilts, placing your back against the wall with your thighs and calves at a ninety degree angle to do a wall sit and making a body bridge.

However, before doing either aerobic or strength exercises, always remember to perform stretching exercises. Failing to stretch is a major cause of muscle strain and injury.

Of course, it is also important to remember what not to do. The “wrong” type of exercise can actually aggravate your lower back pain.  Here are some things to avoid:

·         Bent leg sit ups when you are experiencing pain

·         Straight leg sits ups at any time

·         Leg lifts (of both legs at the same time) while on your back

·         Heavy bicep curls while standing

·         Straight leg toe touches while standing

The best exercise program will always be one that is most natural and enjoyable to the participating individual.  Any exercise that is agreeable will help move you toward experiencing success in managing your lower back pain.  This will contribute to feelings of greater vitality which in turn will lead toward greater willingness to be active.

And remember that it is important to discuss your plans with your health provider.  Exercises that increase pain should be immediately discontinued.

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