Back pain is a common ailment that afflicts millions of Americans, and one of the best ways to alleviate that pain as well as protect against future injury is to strengthen your back. In years past, you probably would have been encouraged to rest your back if it hurts, but physicians now recognize that moderate activity and exercise is much better for treating back pain. Before you begin any new routine of exercise to relief back pain, run it by your doctor first so that you don’t worsen any health conditions.
The first thing to keep in mind is that not all popular exercises will help your back pain. Although there should be some minor discomfort associated with many exercises, it isn’t advisable to continue if the pain intensity is severe. In general, you should not perform any exercises that jerk your back, twist it, or aggressively bend it.
Exercises to AVOID:
- Toe touches may appear to help stretch your back muscles and relieve tension, but they also stress spinal discs and ligaments, which may aggravate your back condition.
- Sit ups are commonly recommended for core strengthening, but like toe touches, these exercises place unnecessary strain on spinal discs.
- Leg lifts are another exercise to avoid because it may strain your back.
Best Exercises for Back Pain:
If performed correctly, a vigorous weightlifting program may not only improve your overall health, but also reduce back pain and strengthen key muscle groups. You should discuss what weightlifting exercises are most appropriate for you with your doctor or physical therapist. Be sure to start slowly and increase your load incrementally over time.
There are various stretches you can perform throughout your day to loosen tense back muscles and enhance flexibility. These include:
- Knee to chest stretch—gently pull one knee up to your chest while lying on your back; alternate legs, then try both at the same time
- Lower back rotational stretch—lying on your back, raise your knees up until your feet are flat on the floor. Then slowly lower both knees to one side and then the other.
- Cat stretch—With both hands and knees on the floor beneath you, gently arch your back up, followed by an arch downward (with your stomach protruding).
More Advanced Back Exercises:
For a more robust workout, you may want to try:
- Walking—a fast walk up and down gentle inclines can help relieve pain and strengthen back muscles.
- Biking—a stationary bike offers an engaging way to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility.
- Swimming—many people with back pain respond positively to swimming which offers low resistance and low impact back strengthening. Water aerobics is also a beneficial exercise.
- Plank—trying to maintain your back, head and leg alignment with your arms fully extended to the floor is a good way to strengthen your core without placing stress on your back.
- Wall sits—sliding your back up and down a wall with your feet about a foot out in front can improve your leg and back strength.
- Bird dog—while on your hands and knees, extend one leg until it is level with your hips and hold before alternating legs.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
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