The health of your back depends to a great extent on your posture and body movements, your ability to cope with stress, and your exercise regime.
Many types of back pain can be blamed on weak abdominal and back muscles. That’s why most doctors oppose prolonged bed rest for back pain and instead recommend light physical activity along with pain relief medication and other proactive treatments.
Physical activity may not only provide pain relief, but it can also prevent future back pain. Along with pain relief medication, many doctors and physio-therapists tailor individualized exercise routines to treat patients who suffer from various types of back pain.
A typical exercise program for back pain may involve stretching and strengthening exercises, flexing, and endurance training. A variety of exercises and techniques are available for back pain relief; your doctor can help you choose an appropriate routine, taking into account the cause and severity of your back pain.
Advantages of Exercise for Back Pain Patients
Along with a healthy diet, doctors recommend exercise as an important component of a healthy lifestyle for most people, not only those who suffer from back pain.
The potential benefits of an exercise program for back pain may include:
- Immediate, short-term pain relief
- Stretching of tight, contracted muscles
- Strengthening of weak muscles, which can contribute to back pain
- Reducing mechanical stress on the back
- Stabilizing the back
- Increasing the ease and efficiency of body movements
- Improving posture, which can guard against future back pain
- Minimizing the frequency and magnitude of chronic back pain
- Increasing the likelihood of quicker recovery from back pain in the future
- Improving fitness to prevent future injuries
A Basic Exercise Program for Back Pain Relief
A basic exercise program for dealing with back pain involves strengthening the back and supporting muscles. If you have injured your back or have other health problems such as osteoporosis, start the exercises only after consulting with a doctor.
You can start on a gentle stretching and strengthening routine if you have no serious spinal problems.
Exercise #1 For Back Pain Relief:
Abdominal contractions gently stretch the back muscles:
- Lie on your back. Bend your knees and place your hands below the ribs.
- Tighten your stomach muscles to squeeze the ribs toward the back. Do not hold your breath.
- Keep your muscles contracted for five seconds and then release.
- Repeat ten times.
Exercise #2 To Prevent Back Pain:
Even when you no longer have back pain, doctors often recommend that you continue exercising to strengthen the back. Choose exercises that help align your body correctly and improve your posture to prevent back pain from recurring. For example, curling against the wall can help improve your standing posture.
- Stand with your back against the wall, with your feet approximately six inches away from the wall.
- Bend your knees and drop your head and shoulders.
- Pull your stomach in and slowly roll up one vertebra at a time against the wall.
Exercise #3 To Prevent Back Pain
Strong abdominal muscles prevent many types of back pain so exercises that involve those muscles are often part of physical therapy programs designed to avoid back pain. For example, diagonal crunches not only strengthen the stomach muscles, but also keep the tummy from sagging.
- Lie on your back. Place your hands behind your head. Bring your knees to your chest at right angles to the waist and cross your feet at the ankles.
- Exhale slowly while raising your trunk, and move your right elbow as much as you can to the left knee. Slowly lower your trunk.
- Repeat with the left elbow and the right knee.
- Repeat ten times.
To improve fitness, you may wish to include stamina-building exercises such as aerobics. As these exercises are more rigorous, start them slowly and only after checking with your physician.
Always warm up before the physical activity and cool down afterward. Walking or light jogging, bicycling, and swimming are some exercises that can provide excellent aerobic conditioning.
Alternative Exercise Therapy Options for Back Pain Relief and Recovery
A variety of alternative exercise therapies and programs are available to help alleviate, cure and prevent future back pain. Some of the more popular programs are:
- Tai Chi Chuan: This gentle martial art form provides exercise for the body, while helping the mind to concentrate. The movements relax the muscles, free the joints, and ease tension. Some people suffering from back pain use this technique along with pain relief medication.
- Yoga: This ancient Indian tradition involves a wide range of mind-body exercises including postural and breathing exercises, deep relaxation, and meditation. Many yoga postures focus on increasing spinal strength and flexibility, which can provide back pain relief. According to researchers, regular yoga practice may also prevent some types of chronic back pain.
- Chi Kung: Also known as Qigong, this ancient Chinese system of exercise focuses on breathing and posture while teaching the mind to concentrate. Chi Kung therapists claim that this system may be used effectively for back pain relief.
- Feldenkrais Method: This exercise technique aims to increase the ease and efficiency of body movements. Therapists try to increase your awareness of body movements, while teaching you to recognize and correct muscle tension.
- Buteyko Breathing Technique: This Russian therapy involves exercises in slow breathing and holding the breath. Therapists claim that this technique reduces muscle tension and can provide back pain relief.
Note: When you perform any type of exercise, it is imperative to distinguish between pain and the feeling of exertion. Pain is a signal from the nerves that a certain activity is wrong for you. If you experience pain while exercising, including back pain, you should instead start with mild exercises that feel comfortable.
Treating AND Preventing Your Back Pain
Exercise can be an important part of an effective treatment program for back pain. Customizing an exercise program that’s suitable for you can help you safely strengthen your back, improve your stamina and fitness, and prevent future back pain.