Exercise does improve back health.
It may surprise you to learn that exercise is part of almost every treatment plan for lower back pain. Movement is a key component of therapy to long-term relief of back pain. The good news is that there is such a variety of exercise and rehabilitation options that many people are able to find something that is enjoyable and effective. Here is a rundown of how exercise can benefit your back health and reduce pain.
Exercise can help improve your back pain
A natural stimulus for your body’s healing process is active exercise, which should be performed in a controlled, gradual, and progressive manner. This means you need to slowly increase the volume and intensity of your workout regimen over time, building to a routine that is consistent, manageable, but also challenging. This gradual progression is especially important if you are just starting a fitness routine. Movement encourages healing by spurring nutrients and oxygen into the disc spaces and soft tissues in your spine for improved function. But the oppositve is also true—a lack of exercise can increase symptoms of stiffness, weakness, and worsened pain.
Strong core muscles improve your spinal function
Strong core muscles—which include your abdomen, lower back, pelvic, and even hip muscles such as your glutes – stabilize and support your spine. This reduces the pressure on your intervertebral discs, soft tissues, and joints, which in turn may bring relief from your lower back pain. Core strengthening is common rehabilitation given for lower back pain. This can include exercises such as planks and leg lifts, but can be even more effective when done with functional daily movements rather than isolated strengthening alone. For example, engaging your core muscles to stabilize your spine to lift and carry objects, squat, and perform pulling exercises like rowing are great ways to develop core strength.
Stretching helps maintain mobility and better posture
Gentle stretches that target the cervical spine and thoracic spine may help with neck and/or upper back pain, as well as improve range of motion. If you tend to slouch or have hunched shoulders with forward head posture, take breaks from sitting throughout your work day to stand and to mobilize your upper back. One option for this is to place a foam roller horizontally on the upper part of your chair and against your upper back, then extend backward over the foam roller while keeping your abdominals engaged. (You can also perform this exercise with the foam roller on the ground). Some lower back conditions can benefit from daily hamstring stretches, which can also reduce nerve tension and relieve pain.
Walking is beneficial for your lower back.
Exercise walking has many benefits for your health and some of these include:
- Improves muscles that keep you upright against gravity.
- Improves blood flow to your spinal structures
- Improves flexibility and mobility
- Has an analgesic effect (pain relief)
When walking for exercise, try to keep a brisk pace with an upright, natural posture. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes 3 or 4 times a week if you are currently active. If you’re new to exercise, try starting with 2 or 3 short walks (5- minutes) each day, and over time this will build to a 30 min bout quite quickly. Other low-impact aerobic exercise options to consider include spin bike, elliptical machine, or swimming. Its always good to have a friend to workout with so find a friend and keep both of your back healthy!
Strength training develops a robust low back
Strength training is one of the most important ways to develop a resilient lower back and minimise low back pain from returning. When done safely, with gradual progression and proper form, lifting weights and adding resistance to full-body movements such as squatting and deadlifting, and carrying can help prepare your body for the demands of day-to-day life and prevent low back injuries from recurring.
Speak with your health professional before starting an exercise program
While exercise is part of nearly every treatment plan for lower back pain, make sure that your exercise program is appropriate for your specific type of back pain. For instance, exercises appropriate for someone with lumbar disc pain will be different to those for a person with spondylolisthesis or sciatica. Make sure you consult with your allied health professional before starting any exercise routine to make sure it improves your health and wellbeing.
You can read more about back injuries here or book in if you need a consultation.