Lower Back pain and Exercise
by Jane Marchant, physical therapist
Lower back pain is experienced by most people at some time in their lives. The muscles which support our back are in constant use, while our body is in motion, but also while simply sitting or standing. This constant stress on the back easily results in back pain. Most back pain is caused by muscle or ligament strain, however there are other causes such as damage or injury to spinal nerves, discs or bones. Sometimes back pain is linked to stress, anxiety and depression.
Recurring lower back pain can be prevented by the regular practice of specific exercises designed to strengthen the muscles which support your back, stretch shortened muscles and correct your postural alignment.
Exercising is beneficial for most conditions causing lower back pain. In case of acute back pain, the exercise program – except for very gentle stretching exercises – should be started only when most of the pain has subsided. Lying on a firm mattress and applying cold packs on the area for a couple of days will help relieve muscle spasm and pain. If your back pain is severe or is accompanied by numbness or pain down the leg, a doctor should be seen immediately.
I recommend doing the exercises first thing in the morning. If your bed has a firm mattress you can exercise even before getting up, if not, use an exercise mat on the floor. Each exercise indicates the breathing pattern. Synchronize the movement with slow and deep breaths. Keep the movement fluid. Gradually increase the number of repetitions, as you make progress over the weeks.
Should you wish to join an exercise class or start the regular practice of a sport to prevent or relieve lower back pain, chose low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming, walking or an exercise class which does not involve running and jumping. Water aerobics is a good choice, as well as exercising with the Gymnic Ball. Exercising with the Ball allows you to safely and effectively develop the strength of the muscles that stabilize and move the trunk, including the abdominals and muscles of the back. Not only does it develop their strength but also their ability to work in an efficient and coordinated way to maintain correct alignment of the spine while the body is in motion.
Stronger abdominals and back muscles, as well as improved flexibility, balance, coordination, heightened body awareness and corrected posture will help you protect your lower back in your daily activities.