Individuals suffering from back pain often avoid exercising specific muscles due to the discomfort it can cause. However, strengthening these muscles despite the discomfort can alleviate pain by enhancing muscle tone, strength, flexibility, and endurance. Exercise can also contribute to a sense of control over one's body. Workouts can help alleviate pain by promoting the release of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers.
Set a daily goal and strive to achieve it, no matter the discomfort. Start with a modest goal, such as walking half a block per day, and gradually increase the distance over time. Doctors and physical therapists can assist in identifying safe and effective ways to recondition the body. Initially, there may be discomfort as muscles that have not been used for a long time are engaged. This pain indicates that the exercised muscles have weakened due to lack of use. Gentle stretching exercises, like yoga, can be very beneficial.
Learn to pace your activities, and rest only after meeting your daily goals. In other words, don't stop when the exercise becomes uncomfortable. Keeping a chart to monitor exercise and track progress can help increase physical function in a careful, gradual manner. Over time, you'll become more active without increasing your level of pain.
Here are some suggested exercises:
- Aerobic exercise for at least thirty minutes, three to four times per week
- Stretching exercises daily
Stretching For Relief Of Back Pain
Stretching is more crucial for alleviating back pain than strengthening exercises. The key is identifying muscles or muscle groups that are asymmetrically tight or imbalanced, leading to postural problems and strain that result in back pain. One of the most common muscles associated with this type of back pain problem is the rectus femoris. This muscle runs from above the hip down through the kneecap into the front of the tibia (the inner, longer bone of the leg between the knee and ankle). If the muscles in both legs are tight, it can lead to an anterior pelvic tilt, where the entire pelvis tilts forward. This often results in a lordosis in the back or an excessive lumbar curve, a condition commonly referred to as sway back.
Chair exercise: Sit in a chair and lean forward until you feel discomfort; exhale and slowly lean further to stretch the muscles.
Stand and place the knee of the leg you want to stretch on the chair's seat. Hold onto the back of the chair with the opposite hand for balance. Pull the heel of the leg you want to stretch towards the buttocks and push forward with the pubic bone. This action pushes the pelvis backward, creating a stretch from the knee up the leg to the front of the thigh.
Knee pulls: Sit in a straight-backed chair. Lift your right knee and clasp it with both hands, pulling it as close to your chest as possible. Exhale deeply as you feel tension or mild pain in your back. Repeat with your left leg. Perform several repetitions.
Execute the same exercise while lying on a mat placed on the floor. While lying on the mat, pull both knees towards your chest. Breathe out as you pull your knees towards your chest and feel the tension.
Pelvic Jack: The Pelvic Jack is another easy stretch to help with low back pain. You can do this while sitting in a chair. Sit up straight with your back against the chair back to maintain the normal low back curve. Then let your pelvis roll back as if you were going to slouch into the chair. Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to the normal position with the standard lumbar curve.
Reverse ankle pull: Stand at the back of a straight-backed chair. Lift your right ankle up behind you, grasp it with your right hand, and gently but firmly pull upward towards your back to stretch your thigh muscles. Exhale as you pull. Repeat with both legs.
Another highly effective stretching posture is the "Cat-Cow" yoga position, where you are on your hands and knees, alternately dropping your back into a sway back position and then arching it like a cat. You can find more information about yoga stretching exercises and breathing exercises proven to be effective in combating back pain in our yoga section.
Frequently, a person suffering from extreme acute back pain can't move much, or is stiff in the morning or has trouble getting out of bed. Here is how to do the stretch:
Lie flat on your back, possibly with a pillow under your knees to reduce strain on your lower back.
Alternate pushing one foot out and then the other. There's no need to push against anything. It's as if you're trying to lengthen your legs, which effectively rocks the pelvis back and forth, unlike the front-to-back motion in the Pelvic Rock.
Try press-ups. These are similar to half of a push-up and are excellent for strengthening your lower back. Lie on the floor on your stomach, ensuring your pelvis stays flat on the floor. Push up with your hands, arching your back as you raise your shoulders off the floor. Do press-ups in the morning and in the afternoon.
Perform crunch sit-ups. Lie flat with both feet on the floor and your knees bent. Cross your arms and place your hands on your shoulders. Lift your head and shoulders as high as you can while keeping your lower back on the floor. Hold for 1 second, then repeat.
Try a dry land swim. This is an effective method to extend and strengthen your lower back. Lie on your stomach and raise your left arm and right leg. Hold for 1 second, then switch to your left leg and right arm, simulating a swimming motion.
Swimming in water is excellent exercise for the back. For acute low back pain, consider swimming in a warm pool.
Caution: Know your limits. If the exercise you are performing causes pain or worsens your condition, stop immediately.
Before stretching any muscles, ensure they are completely relaxed. Muscles must be relaxed to stretch properly. Perform the stretch, hold it for five to ten seconds, release, and relax for five to ten seconds, then return to the stretch and hold for five to ten seconds.