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     Volume 5 Issue 91 | April 21, 2006 |

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Exercises to reduce low back pain

Low back pain is one of the most common conditions and one of the leading causes of physician visits. In fact, at least four out of five adults will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.

Ironically, the severity of the pain is often unrelated to the extent of physical damage. Muscle spasm from a simple back strain can cause excruciating back pain that can make it difficult to walk or even stand, whereas a large herniated disc or completely degenerated disc can be completely painless.

The causes of low back pain can be very complex, and there are many structures in the low back that can cause pain. The following parts of spinal anatomy can cause pain:

  • The large nerve roots in the low back that go to the legs and arms may be irritated
  • The smaller nerves that innervate the spine in the low back may be irritated
  • The large paired lower back muscles (erector spinae) may be strained
  • The bones, ligaments or joints may be injured
  • The intervertebral disc may be injured

It is important to note that many types of low back pain have no known anatomical cause, but the pain is still real and needs to be treated. However, usually low back pain can be linked to a general cause (such as muscle strain) or a specific and diagnosable condition (such as degenerative disc disease or a lumbar herniated disc).

Most low back pain can be treated effectively by staying active while avoiding activities that may increase or cause back pain, taking non-prescription pain relievers, and doing stretching exercises for the stomach, back, and legs. After two to three days, you may be ready for gentle strengthening exercises. Exercise may not only help treat low back pain, but it may also help speed your recovery, prevent re-injury to your back, and reduce the risk of disability from back pain.

Exercises to reduce low back pain are not complicated and can be done at home without any special equipment.

Exercises that may help reduce low back pain include:

  • Stretching exercises, which keep your muscles and other supporting tissues flexible and less prone to injury.
  • Strengthening exercises, focusing on your back, stomach and leg muscles.
  • Aerobic exercise, to condition your heart and other muscles, maintain health and speed recovery.
Some exercises can aggravate back pain. If you have low back pain, avoid:
  • Straight leg sit-ups.
  • Bent leg sit-ups when you have acute back pain.
  • Lifting both legs while lying on your back (leg lifts).
  • Lifting heavy weights above the waist (standing military press or bicep curls).
  • Toe touches while standing.
Why is it important to do exercises for low back pain?
Exercises may relieve low back pain and can help speed your recovery. Stretching and strengthening your abdominal, back and leg muscles makes them less susceptible to injury that can cause back pain. Strong abdominal, back, and leg muscles also better support your spine, reducing pressure on your spinal discs; this helps prevent disc injury.

Aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming, also help you maintain a healthy back. Aerobic exercise makes your heart and other muscles use oxygen more efficiently. Muscles that frequently receive oxygen-rich blood stay healthier.

Stretching and strengthening exercises include:

  • Flexion exercises, which strengthen abdominal muscles, and stretch the muscles and ligaments in the back.
  • Curl-ups
  • Knee-to-chest exercise
  • Additional strengthening and stretching exercises.
  • Prone buttocks squeeze
  • Pelvic tilts
  • Hamstring stretch
  • Hip flexor stretch
  • “Sitting" with your back flat against a wall.

Source: Webmd.com and Spine-health.com)


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