As a practicing chiropractor of over 38 years, I am asked frequently by my patient’s, what exercises they should do to help get and stay free of lower back pain. I also see patients who have lower back pain and have been doing an exercise program that is deleterious to the back condition they’ve presented with. This article will discuss the do’s and don’ts of exercise if one has a history of lower back pain.
Let me first note that the information in this article is for general perusal and not specific to any person. Anyone who has, or is presently, suffering from lower back pain needs to, individually, consult with their healthcare provider as to proper guidance and activity. The ideas presented here come from my years of experience and are strictly my opinion.
My patients come in all types of different categories. I work with young, very fit professional and amateur athletes who aren’t necessarily in pain but are looking to improve their performance. Many of them are seemingly indestructible. They can exercise, practice, and participate in their sport with almost no restriction. With these people I tell them to recognize the “window of life” that they are in and enjoy it to the fullest. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever.
I mainly counsel them to be careful with exercises that could haunt them later in life. For instance, I tell runners to spend some percentage of their time running on a softer surface like a dirt trail, or a grass field or a track to lessen impact on their lower extremities and lower back. I advise serious weightlifters to limit compressive exercises like squats and deadlifts to one or two times per week.
The majority of my patients are middle-aged or seniors. They may have had injuries to their spine or occupations that have caused wear and tear. Nurses, people who work in construction and people with full-time desk jobs are typical of many of the patients I see.
The exercises I recommend to them are more of a gentle, stretching and strengthening warm-up nature. I encourage these folks to do some gentle stretching first thing in the morning to prepare for more vigorous exertion that their day will bring. The mindset is to ready themselves as an athlete would before a practice or game.
Lower back exercises for this category of patient might include lying face up and pulling one or both knees gently to the chest for 5 seconds. Pelvic tilts to gently strengthen the lower core muscles are also very appropriate. Stretching the gluteal/buttock muscles, which are the largest group of the body, can help immeasurably.
Patients who have neck and upper back problems can do a morning routine of neck ranges of motion, and pectoral stretches to increase flexibility. Gently strengthening the muscles of the back of the neck and between the lower shoulder blades can help with posture and in bringing about chronic neck pain relief.
Most of these people benefit from walking, lightweight lifting, swimming, elliptical machines and other age-appropriate activities. I’ve seen too many people go on YouTube and try to do unsuitable rehabilitation exercises like planks, use of exercise balls, leg lifts and abs of steel routines. These can be very harmful and make my goal of providing spinal pain relief much more difficult.
Exercises to provide neck and lower back pain relief should always be suitable for us at whatever stage of life we are at. The goal should be to help you for a long time to come!