Four out of five of us experience back pain sometime during the course of our lives. This is a great wake-up call to start an exercise routine if you haven’t already, because exercise not only relieves most back pain but also is the single most effective way to reduce the risk of a back problem occuring in the first place or recurring if you already have a back problem.
When is back pain amenable to exercise and when does it need more? Exercise is best for pain due to strain or spasm, and even spine related back problems such as sciatica which is pain that radiates from the back and extends down a leg often accompanied by ‘pins and needs’ sensation. For these most common forms of back pain, exercise has been proven to be the best medicine.
Less common back pain needs immediate medical attention such as back pain with any of these symptoms: fever, pain that worsens with exercise, numbness in the groin, loss of bowel or bladder control, leg weakness, and inability to sleep.
When back pain starts neither bed rest nor hard exercise is recommended. Instead try to maintain normal activities but without lifting. In 2 weeks when most back pain subsides, start gentle exercises that strengthen and stretch the lower back as well as the abdominals – most people don’t realize that weak abs are a major cause of back problems. Gentle Pilates or yoga is perfect although no study has yet identified any particular exercise that’s best. Studies do show that exercisers have less back problems than those who do not exercise.
Here are the 3 most commonly prescribed exercises by doctors and physical therapists to relieve low back pain:
- Lie on your back and gently pull one knee as close to your chest as is comfortable and hold for 5-10 seconds. Alternate sides 5-10 times.
- Now do it with both knees.
- Now touch your lower back to the floor and hold it for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
Remember to consult your doctor before trying any exercises for back pain, because sometimes back pain has nothing to do with your back!