Activity & Prevention
Staying active can actually help relieve back pain. Let’s take a look at some basic back strengthening exercises.
Welcome back to Back on Track! Our next guest is a physical therapist. Please welcome Bill LeVasseur. Nice to see you, Bill. Thank you for joining us.
Thank you, Ty.
Now Bill, I’d like to start by asking you a simple question. Why is activity good for someone who is experiencing back pain?
Well, the entire body needs to be active to stay healthy. Activity keeps you strong and fit, and just makes you feel good. That may seem like common sense, but what many people don’t know is that exercise can actually release natural chemicals, called endorphins, that help reduce pain. So, as Dr. O’Connor pointed out, staying active can actually help relieve back pain.
Are there specific activities that you can suggest for someone who is experiencing back pain?
Different activities work best for different people. In general, walking and swimming can provide a workout without putting too much stress on the back. Some people prefer to ride an exercise bike. The goal is to get moving, and to gradually increase the amount of activity.
Exercise will get your back moving and help to stretch stiff muscles and joints. Of course, it’s also good for your heart and lungs, and your overall fitness level. Be sure to build up your activity level gradually so that you don’t increase your discomfort. Keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to check with your provider before starting any exercise program.
Dr, O’Connor, how soon after the onset of back pain should someone begin stretching and exercising?
Well Ty, it depends on the situation, but we recommend starting to stretch and exercise after a day or two of rest, if rest is necessary. Keep in mind that you may experience some discomfort when exercising. Mild pain and discomfort while exercising may be normal, but sharp and severe pain is not. So, if the discomfort increases, and remains the following day, you should consult your health care provider.
Now, are there basic back-strengthening exercises that are suggested?
Absolutely. There are many safe and effective exercise options. And remember, to reduce your risk of future back pain, devote just 10 to 20 minutes each day to the health of your back.
Let me show you just a few simple exercises that are sometimes recommended for back pain. Let's start with a simple general motion exercise called the "Pelvic Tilt." This exercise can help relieve low back pain.
Here's what you do:
Now let's move into specific exercises for extension. The next two exercises are intended for people whose back pain is relieved with backwards bending or stretching, or activities like walking that promote this kind of motion. The first one is called a "Press-Up."
A second backward bending stretch that can be conveniently done anywhere is called the Standing Backward Stretch or "Standing Extension Stretch".
With this stretch, you:
Next let's take a look at a flexion exercise. For people whose pain is relieved by forward bending stretches or positions, like sitting or leaning forward when walking, the "Lower Back and Hip Stretch" is likely to help.
Here are the steps: