Lower back pain can be a short-term or chronic problem that can strike anyone of any age at any time. Whether you have a desk job or are on your feet all day, you are likely to experience an episode of lower back pain at some point in your life, along with tens of millions of others. At best, lower back pain is an annoyance; at worst, it is debilitating and interferes with work, leisure activities and your overall quality of life.
Back pain is not as uncommon as you may think. Increasingly our lifestyles are placing a great strain on our backs.
Pressure and stress are all too common symptoms of the hectic lives we lead. Unfortunately they can contribute to back and neck pain as we physically and emotionally tense and round up our shoulders.
In addition, we continue to work (a lot of us) in environments where we sit for long periods of time, mainly at desks glued to our computer. For some people, sitting in a chair for 40 hours plus per week is the fastest way to develop back pain that seriously hurts! And what’s worrying is that for some people, they have never even experienced back pain before; they have never had lower back pain, shoulder issues or neck pain, but suddenly notice these symptoms coming on. Even if the symptoms don’t last for very long, they can start affecting people on a daily basis.
The worst part is that when you do get lower back pain, it can seem so hard to get rid of. You try adjusting your posture and it still hurts. You try rubbing it or massaging it or stretching it out quickly – and yet it still hurts.
You try getting up and walking around and then it hurts again ten minutes later. It can be incredibly frustrating.
So here are some exercises you can do right now for lower back pain relief.
The underlying premise is simple: you’re experiencing pain because of chronic inactivity and stress and this weakens certain muscles and tightens others. So here are two effective exercises that we know work. (Even famous celebrities and professional athletes do these to manage their back pain)
How to do it:
Lie on your back with both legs bent at right angles either on a chair or block
Rest your hands on your stomach or lay with your arms out at the side below shoulder level, with your palms facing up
Breathe from your stomach. Let the lower back relax.
Hold the position for 5-10 minutes
How to do it:
Lie on your back with one leg resting on a chair, with your knee bent at 90 degrees, while the other leg is extended straight out and resting on the floor.
Make sure both legs are aligned with your hips and shoulders
The foot of your extended leg should be propped upright to prevent it from rolling to one side
Hold this position for a few minutes then do the same on the other side.
Make sure you move and walk even if you can only manage 10 minutes at a time. Try and do a 10 minute walk 3 times a day.
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When in pain, are there exercises that hurt your back?
The short easy answer is “Yes”! Exercises that you do on a regular basis may actually harm your back if you have recently injured it or are in significant pain. Many patients continue there usual exercise routine while even in a “flare-up” or after a injury. This might actually slow the normal healing time of your back pain. For the sake of being brief, I will discuss lower back pain, but some of the basic principles can be applied to most areas of joint pain. A proper low back diagnosis is recommended prior to continuing or changing your workout program.
Back pain while bending forward (flexion-intolerant).
This is a very common type of lower back pain. The pain will be worse when leaning forward and you might have pain into the buttocks or thighs. Any symptoms radiating further or including changes in bowel or bladder changes, see your doctor ASAP. Many common stretches involve flexion of your lower back. It is paramount to avoid this motion in the beginning stages of a back injury. Many patients will simply not improve until they stop this exercise.
Exercises to avoid with a flexion type low back injury.
First, avoid all exercises that bend your back forward at the waist. These include crunches, toe touches, and seated forward bends. Any exercise that involves a forward posture is not recommended. Some of the other exercises to avoid with a flexion injury are:
Bike reading while leaning forward.
Toe touches while standing or seated.
Any back lying abdominal exercises.
Pulling of one or both knees to the chest.
Seated leg presses.
Lying on your back and pulling a knee up while doing trunk rotations.
Many or at least a couple of these have probably been advised by your chiropractor or physical therapist. If you have the type of low back pain I described, try staying away from these for a couple weeks and see if it helps. After recovery, these exercises are totally fine to resume.
Our chiropractic office in Rapid City, SD offers relief and guidance for this and many other ailments or injuries. Dr Gruba is also a licensed acupuncturist in Rapid City.
There is often no need to suffer from chronic lower back pain. I recommend starting with a proper diagnosis and treatment. It is always best to take an active approach at home, which includes necessary stretching and exercises. But, with poor guidance, your back pain can be a long term problem and may even alter your future.
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