Much of the world struggles with lower back pain, and almost everyone is eager to find a program that offers lasting back pain relief. Whether your pain is a result of a muscle strain, herniated disc or osteoarthritis, that pain in the lower back is probably disrupting your life. You have probably tried various home remedies like bed rest and heat packs, as well as the most common over-the-counter pain medications, but you may find that lower back pain exercises are the most effective treatment option.
Lower back pain is an epidemic in the United States. In 2013, almost 30 percent of the U.S. population was suffering from lower back pain at any given time. This is slightly up from 28 percent in 1997, so this condition is becoming more common. Statistics show that almost four out of five people will encounter lower back pain at some point in their lives.
This health condition has important implications for our society. It is estimated that almost $150 billion is lost annually due to medical treatments, insurance payouts and lost work productivity. There are also hidden costs; for example, almost 37 percent of patients report sleep loss due to their lower back pain. This could detrimentally affect work performance, ability to operate vehicles and interactions with others.
Why is Lower Back Pain So Common?
Back pain is becoming more prevalent in American society, and that is becoming a growing burden on our health care system. Lower back pain is the second most common reason for doctor’s office visits, the fifth leading cause of hospital stays and the third most common cause for surgical procedures. Although modern medicine is advancing its understanding of lower back pain and pain treatments, it may be losing ground in this deepening public health crisis overall.
First of all, you should know that the back is a complex network of bones, muscles, nerves and connective tissue. Even minor problems with any of these components can lead to serious lower back pain issues. Even trained diagnosticians may find it almost impossible to distinguish between lower back pain caused by a muscle strain and one caused by neuropathy.
Another reason back problems are so common is that we were not designed for a modern world of sitting at desks and lifting objects using only our backs. Humans have evolved from primates that rested in a crouched position and used their legs more in lifting objects. It is usually out of poor form or ignorance that we injure our lower backs. More than half of all lower back pain sufferers work in positions where sitting for a large portion of the day is required.
Finally, there is also the growing number of older people in our society. More than a third of seniors suffer from lower back pain problems and, as this demographic grows, so too the number of lower back pain cases.
Most Utilized Back Pain Relief Treatments
Because there are so many people who are suffering from lower back pain, it may help you to know what treatment options are most utilized for back pain relief. A study performed by Research!America found the following results:
- 58 percent of respondents used prescription medications to remedy their pain
- 53 percent sought chiropractic treatment
- 48 percent used physical therapy to treat their pain
- 90 percent of lower back pain cases resolved within six weeks
- Only 7 percent of patients developed chronic pain symptoms
The good news is that almost all lower back pain cases resolve in a few weeks with little or no medical intervention. Although the pain may be uncomfortable, it is very unlikely that your symptoms will become severe or chronic.
How to Speed Healing and Prevent Further Injury
If you want to accelerate the recovery process and protect yourself from additional injury, one of the most beneficial options is to engage in a back-strengthening program. You may want to try one or more of the following lower back pain exercises, but you should consult with your doctor first to ensure that you aren’t risking further injury.
- Partial crunches—one of the key goals of your back-strengthening program should be to increase your core strength. Your core should include abdominal, back and hip muscles. You may have done sit-ups in school, but a complete lifting of your upper body off of the floor is unnecessary (and may put undue stress on your neck and lower back); instead, just lift your shoulders off the ground a few inches, hold for a second, then lower.
- Hamstring stretches—flexibility is important in protecting your back, but many people don’t realize how important it is to keep your leg muscles, especially your hamstrings limber. Tight hamstrings can force your lower back muscles to tense up, offering less support. To stretch your hamstrings, lie with your back flat on the floor. Loop a towel around your toes and pull your leg in an outstretched position up until you can feel tension in your leg muscles.
- Bird dog—this exercise not only strengthens your lower back, but it also trains you to stabilize the lower back properly. Place your hands and knees on the floor first, then slowly lift and extend one leg. Hold for five breaths then return to original position. Repeat 8 or 10 times for each leg. Once you master this, try raising the opposite arm simultaneously.
- Bridging—lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Slowly tense your buttocks and lift your hips until your shoulders, hips and knees are in a straight line. Hold this position for five breaths, the slowly lower your hips to the floor. Perform 8 to 10 repetitions.
- Lower back stretch—start with just hands and knees on the floor. Slowly lower your buttocks until they almost contact your feet, without moving your hands. Hold this stretch for five breaths then slowly return to your starting position. Repeat 8 or 10 times.
Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care
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