Dos and doníts for low back pain
If you suffer from lower back pain, be careful that you donít further injure yourself when taking on your outdoor activities
As the weather begins to warm and flowers bloom, it becomes clear that summer is just around the corner. If youíre one who loves to enjoy the great outdoors, then this is just the season for you. However, if you suffer from lower back pain, be careful that you donít further injure yourself when taking on your outdoor activities. From gardening to playing sports, many seasonal activities may wind-up being a pain in your lower back. But with a few exercises to strengthen those muscles, youíll be able to spring right back into your outdoor fun - pain free.
Seasonal-related activities ranging from gardening and horseback riding to tennis, cycling, and golfing can cause lower back pain if those muscles arenít prepared for those activities. However, muscle strain and lower back pain can be reduced by doing a few simple exercises to strengthen those muscles.
Stretch and strengthen
Strained muscles are the most common cause of lower back pain, so stretching and strengthening these muscles is vital in preventing pain and injury. Stretching exercises keep your muscles and ligaments flexible, making them less prone to painful strain, and strengthen them to hold your spine in its correct position. These exercises can also decrease the amount of stress placed on spinal joints and increase the flow of blood and nutrients to other areas of the body.
So choose a few stretching and strengthening exercises that you enjoy doing and change them from day-to-day. You can choose from two types of stretching exercises that help alleviate back pain. Extension exercises extend, or stretch the tissue along the front of the spine and strengthen the back muscles. If you have less back pain when standing or walking, this form of stretching is typically the best choice. Give this extension stretch a try, repeating two to four times each session:
Flexion exercises stretch the muscles and ligaments in the back but also strengthen the muscles in the stomach, an important part of core muscle strength and good back health. For those who experience less back pain when sitting, flexion exercises are generally a good choice. Try this flexion exercise and repeat two to four times for each leg:
- Lie on your stomach, using your forearms to support your body.
- Press your elbows down into the floor, raising your upper back. As you do this, relax your stomach muscles and let your back arch without using your back muscles. Do not let your hips or pelvis come off the floor.
- Hold this position for fifteen to thirty seconds; then allow your body to relax.
Knee to chest
*For more of a stretch, try it with your other leg flat on the floor while pulling your knee into your chest
- Lie on your back, bending your knees and placing your feet flat on the floor.
- Bring one knee up to your chest while keeping the other foot on the floor. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor and hold for fifteen to thirty seconds.
- Relax your body and lower your leg to starting position. Repeat with your other leg.
Work it out
Aerobic exercises are also helpful in maintaining a healthy, pain-free back. Low-impact exercises, like walking or swimming, are preferable because they place less stress on the back muscles. This form of exercise also makes your heart and other muscles use oxygen more efficiently, creating healthier muscles in your back and throughout your body. So enjoy some form of aerobic exercise every day. Even a few minutes per day can be helpful in the beginning; just gradually work to increase your time as your body get used to the exercises.
Exercises that are gentle on the back
Walking two to three miles a few times a week is both gentle on the back and very beneficial in easing pain. It is also quite convenient because it can be done inside or outside and requires no special equipment other than a good pair of walking shoes. Itís just another reason to go outside to enjoy this beautiful summertime weather.
Water exercises can be very effective while still minimizing the pressure placed on the spine and muscles. When submerged in water, a person is more mobile, making exercises less painful. Swimming and other water exercises are especially helpful for those who are in too much pain for exercises on a hard floor or mat. And by engaging in water exercises, youíll feel better in that swimsuit, too!
Low impact gym machines
Elliptical, stationary bikes, and stair steppers, are another way to engage in aerobic exercise while protecting your back. These machines not only provide low-impact aerobic exercise, but also provide strength training that builds muscle to make the back stronger.
What not to do
Some exercises can worsen pain by straining the lower back. Those who suffer from lower back pain should avoid:
Ask your doc
- Sit-ups with straight legs
- Bent leg sit-ups or partial sit-ups when you have acute back pain
- Lying on your stomach with legs extended and lifting together
- Lifting heavy weights above the waist
- Toe touches while standing
Before starting any exercise program, make sure to talk to your doctor. The best exercise programs are designed specifically for the patient and his or her physical abilities. And make sure that the exercises you do move you to your most comfortable position and do not cause you further pain. Only do exercises that do not make your symptoms worse.
So if you suffer from lower back pain, donít worry that you canít enjoy your usual summertime activities. Garden, cycle, and play tennis to your heartís content. Just make sure to take care of and exercise your back, and it will enjoy those outdoor activities with you.
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"Dos and doníts for low back pain"
Dr. Friedman serves as the Medical Director for the Pain Relief Centers, and West Park Surgery Center, a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the treatment of spinal disorders. Currently he remains in full clinical practice and continues to provide...