What are the best exercises for easing back pain?
In the “old days”, bed rest was the standard prescription for back pain. Images of people laying in traction in hospital beds come to mind. We’ve come a long way since then. In fact, the latest research supports that bed rest and lack of motion slow down the recovery process. I will describe some do’s and don’ts when it comes to back pain exercises.
Walking: If you want to accelerate your healing time, think about motion. Motion releases endorphins, your body’s natural pain reliever. Walking is a basic human motion that eases lower back pain. It not only releases endorphins but also pumps toxins out of the spinal discs, which are sensitive to pain. Walking is a great, basic exercise that we encourage our patients to do so as soon as they are able.
Knee Pulls: While lying flat on your back, pull your right knee straight up towards your right shoulder. Hold it in place with your hands for 30 seconds then switch legs. Repeat a few times a day. This flexed position takes pressure off the rear joints in the lower back. It is a great stretch for tightened lower back muscles and ligaments.
Additional Recommendation: In conjunction with the above exercises, apply ice to the lower back. Ice is best for most acute type pain. It has been proven to be a more effective pain blocker than heat in most cases where injury or inflammation is involved. Heat is more often used for chronic, non-inflammatory conditions such as arthritic degeneration. Ice should be applied as close to the skin as possible, but not directly on the skin. Twenty minutes works best to penetrate the tissue and have a pain-relieving effect.
What are the best exercises for preventing back pain?
Stretching and core strengthening exercises are great for preventing back pain. The foundation of the strength of your body is your “core” region, the area located around your lower back and abdomen. Keep this area strong and flexible by doing core strengthening exercises such as planks. Always use good form. As you begin to fatigue, pay close attention to your form. If your hips start to sag downward, stop this exercise.
Exercises that burn a lot of calories to help keep the “weight off” will decrease the stress that belly fat puts on your lower back. These exercises consist of aerobic type exercises like running, swimming, cycling, etc. Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen. Additionally, eating a proper diet will give you the best chance of getting to and maintaining a proper weight, for overall better health and avoidance of weight-related health conditions, including pain.
What should you avoid if you have back pain?
We recommend that patients who have back pain avoid compressive forces on the disc. This happens with seated as well as standing overhead presses. Also, avoid sit-ups and leg lifts that put significant strain on the lower back. As a general rule, when your back hurts, avoid prolonged sitting. As stated previously, motion is the better course of action.
When and why should you consult a doctor about your back pain or if you can exercise?
Consult a chiropractor certified in Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) when you experience any of the following:
- Sharp lower back pain – could be a disc herniation or other acute spine or organ issue that needs attention.
- Back pain lasting more than a week – could be something serious that won’t resolve on its own. This is less likely a muscle spasm and more of an injury that should get medical attention.
- Pain, coldness, tingling or weakness in the legs, feet or toes – this is generally inflammation of sensory or motor nerves. Vascular issues should be ruled out when more basic spine care does not resolve these symptoms.
A loss of bowel or bladder function – this is a medical emergency, go directly to the ER! – could indicate spinal cord compression and warrants immediate emergency medical attention. After the emergency is taken care of, thoroughly evaluate your spinal structure with a CBP chiropractor to determine the root cause of the problem.
About the Author
Dr. David Shapiro, DC, CEO of Complete Spine Solutions
A graduate of Life University, School of Chiropractic 1993 (4600 postgraduate hours). Board-certified licensed Doctor of Chiropractic. Passed 3 national board tests and the state of Georgia board examination. Also certified in therapeutic modalities.
Advanced Certified in Chiropractic BioPhysics, the most evidence-based technique in chiropractic. He’s been in private practice for over 25 years.