Friday, May 25, 2012

Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Approximately 65 million Americans suffer from back pain, with lower back pain being the most frequent area of concern. Lower back pain is typically the result of ageing, overuse, muscle strains, and injury. While some initial down time may be in order, in most cases, staying active is the key to relieving chronic lower back pain. Too little activity can lead to loss of flexibility, strength, endurance, and increases the likelihood of more back pain. The right exercises will strengthen and support the lower back, reducing pain, speeding recovery, and preventing re-injury. On the flip side, the wrong exercises may trigger back pain or even cause irreparable damage, so it is important to choose your exercises wisely.

Beneficial Exercises for Lower Back Pain
  • As a rule of thumb, choose gentle strengthening and stretching exercises for your core, back, and legs. These areas have the greatest influence on your lower back's health.
  • Swimming is perhaps the best aerobic exercise for lower back pain. Try the back stroke or using a kick board.
  • Pilates provide an amazing low impact comprehensive workout that stretches, strengthens, and tightens the core.
  • Lifting hand weights – just be sure not to over-do it! The weight should feel slightly challenging but not uncomfortable or painful. Keep movements slow and calculated.
  • Wall sits (see image) - Sit at a near 90 degree angle with your back against the wall. This will strengthen your core and your legs, while bracing your lower back.
  • Press up back extensions - lie stomach down, with your hands under your shoulders, pushing with your hands so your shoulders begin to lift off the floor. This is will increase flexibility and strengthen your back.
  • Partial crunches (i.e. a slight crunch, but not a full “sit up”) provide back stability while strengthening the core.
  • Individuals with tight hamstrings are more likely to experience back pain, so gentle hamstring stretches are a great addition to any exercise regimen.
  • Lie on the floor, with knees bent at 45 degrees, feet on the floor. Slowly lift your knee to your chest or as far is comfortable for you.
  • Pelvic tilts are a very gentle strengthening move that will support the lower back and strengthen the lower abdominals – a tough area to target.
  • Consider pairing exercise with a supportive lumbar back brace at early stages of recovery.
  • Utilize heat therapy to loosen up muscles prior to a strenuous workout and apply cold therapy to decrease swelling and reduce pain.

  • Exercises to Avoid
  • It goes without saying but avoid exercises that strain the back. If you feel pain, just stop. Be sure to “check in” with your body regularly. Trust your internal narrator. If your inner voice says “this feels like it could go wrong”, just stop.
  • Avoid toe touches and similar fast-paced, drastic bending movements.
  • Full sit-ups put too much pressure on the spine and should be avoided.
  • Leg lifts (i.e. laying on the floor and elevating legs) place too much strain on the lower back.

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