Exercises to Help Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common medical issues in the US. Back pain can significantly affect an individual’s quality of life. Daily activities suddenly become difficult to enjoy, and sleeping can be a painful challenge.
Spinal pain can easily make people more sedentary, which can quickly lead to other health problems. In reality, people with back pain should strive to be more active! Our spines protect our spinal cord and keep us upright and mobile. A healthy spine is a happy spine, since it is better able to handle the stresses of daily life. Most doctors consider exercise one of the best aids for reducing back pain and maintaining a healthy spine.
Common Causes of Back Pain
Since our spines are always at work, there are many potential causes of spinal injury. Some causes are natural, while others result from usage and wear or accidents. Common causes of back pain include:
- Trauma (Accidents, injuries, etc,.)
- Herniated Discs
- Spinal Tumors
- Degenerative Spondylolisthesis
- Unsuccessful Spinal Surgery
- Degenerative Disc Disease
Back pain can result from any or a combination of these factors.
Exercise & Back Pain
Exercise is one of the best ways to maintain and improve your spine’s health.
Without exercise, a vicious cycle may begin. Back muscles atrophy and shrink, causing stiffness and pain. It may become increasingly difficult to move. The individual becomes less encouraged or motivated to exercise as it becomes increasingly painful and difficult, and lying in bed and resting becomes a very appealing option. While resting seems like it should help the pain, continued disuse makes the atrophy worse.
In reality, exercise helps maintain muscle tone and keeps back muscles from deteriorating and shrinking. Exercise helps promote blood flow and healing in injured backs.
Exercise can not only reduce the amount of time needed for healing, it can promote flexibility to prevent future reoccurrence of injury, and minimize the severity and duration of patients who have chronic back pain.
Exercises for back pain don’t require hours of effort. You can keep your back healthy with as little as 15 minutes of back exercise per day.
Exercises to Try
- Hamstring Stretches: Lay on your back. Bend one knee and keep that leg’s foot on the floor. Lift your other foot into the air and hook a towel or rope over your heel. Simultaneously pull on the towel or rope and straighten your knee. You’ll feel your hamstring stretching, but this will also help your lower back.
- Knee to Chest: This exercise is similar to hamstring stretches. Lay on your back. Keep one knee bent with that leg’s foot on the floor. Lift the other leg into the air and pull towards your chest. Optional – loop your hands behind your knee for a deeper stretch.
- ‘Sphinx’, or, Back Extension Exercises: Lay stomach-down on the floor. Place your arms under your shoulders. Push your shoulders, head, and neck up while keeping your lower half on the floor. Hold this position before easing back to the ground.
- Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise: Water therapy, walking, stationary bicycling, and elliptical machines are all great ways to strengthen your back while keeping the stress and strain on your spine to a minimum.
Exercises to Avoid
- Leg Lifts: Leg lifts usually involve the person lying on the floor and lifting both feet into the air repeatedly, or holding them at an angle for a set amount of time. This puts a considerable amount of strain on the back, and is not recommended for weak backs.
- Touching Toes: Touching toes while standing is a good exercise for people with healthy or strong backs. However, this exercise can aggravate injuries the spinal column in people with weak backs.
Stretching for Back Pain
Stretching helps soften and loosen the tissues and ligaments along the spine, shoulders, neck, and legs.
Patients with chronic back pain may find that relief or improvement in the range of motion from stretching may take weeks or even months. Patients with injuries or acute back pain may find improvement much more quickly.
Speak with your doctor or physical therapist about stretches recommended specifically for you.
General Stretching Guidelines:
- Stretching shouldn’t be painful. Stretching into a painful or uncomfortable position could do more damage than good.
- When stretching, choose comfortable clothes that don’t restrict your movement. This will help keep your blood flowing normally instead of becoming constricted.
- Avoid bouncing when stretching, as this motion can tear muscles. Instead, move slowly into the stretch to give your muscles time to adjust.
- Remain in the stretch for 20 – 30 seconds to allow your muscles to fully extend.
Keeping Your Spine Healthy at Florida Medical Clinic
Florida Medical Clinic’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery is your best resource if you are suffering from either acute or chronic spinal pain, specializing in all aspects of spinal surgery and reconstruction.
Our Physical Therapy Department is another great resource for improving on your spine’s health following injury or surgery.
While accidents happen, and wear and tear can take its toll on any back, keeping your spine fit and flexible now will help you stay healthy and strong in the long run!