I’m pretty sure you all know what it is I’m about to say so without any further ado, I’d like for you all to meet… Exercise. Exercise, this is everyone. Wonderful, now that we’re all acquainted with each other we can get down to business. How many of you know that exercise can actually relieve that nagging, annoying lower back pain that affects more than 80 percent of the population? (Hint: it totally can. Now you all know.) What my experience in working with back pain sufferers has taught me is that after only a few short weeks of exercise, they all felt less pain and strain, even to the point of actually experiencing days without any pain. Ha, imagine that? And after only a couple of weeks. Exercise, therefore in my book, can be linked to Pain Reliever; possibly they’re distant cousins or extended family. Who knows. What we do know is that they seem to go hand in hand with each other, which is fantastic news for back pain sufferers.
A statement I have heard time and time again from clients is, “I feel great, and guess what? My back feels amazing. It’s never felt this great!” (I must admit, statements like that get me all warm and fuzzy inside.) The thing is, despite all that warmth and fuzziness, there are times I feel downright dismayed and discouraged. Not at my clients, but at my prospective clients that tell me they are suffering from back pain and that they can’t commit to working out just yet. They want to “rest” their backs until it starts to feel better, and then they’ll be ready to start exercising. You know what? They never fully feel better and that keeps a lot of people from exercising. It’s such a shame because they let their fear of more pain control their decisions. Meanwhile, they’re only extending the lifespan of their back pain by continually doing what they have been doing, which is being sedentary. (Exactly what probably caused the pain in the first place.) “Resting” usually doesn’t help. The pain lingers, you get used to it and you end up doing more harm by compensating your movements to deal with the pain, thus further mis-aligning your posture and messing things up even more. It’s a slippery slope, and as you age, slippery is a dangerous thing. Sometimes you have to work through your fears in order to get better. And exercise, the one thing you’re avoiding, is just the thing that can help you.
So what can you do to start relieving the pain? Start slowly and work your way up. The areas of your body that you need to focus on are your lower back, abdominals, hips and legs. These are the areas you want to strengthen and increase flexibility and mobility. You also want to incorporate low-impact aerobic activities like cycling, swimming and using the elliptical machine, which won’t put excessive strain on your lower back and will help your body learn to better utilize oxygen. As you begin to increase your strength and mobility, you should notice a lessening in pain. This will only get better the more you keep at it. But don’t rush things, a slow and steady pace wins the race. Don’t jeopardize your efforts by moving too fast, or too slow for that matter and always be in contact with your doctor, physical therapist or personal trainer about your advancements.
Exercises to avoid with lower back pain:
- Straight-leg sit-ups (meaning don’t extend both legs straight out in front of you and then attempt a sit-up)
- Lying on your back and lifting both legs up
- Lifting heavy weights above your waist
- Deep squats
- Excessive forward flexion (standing up and leaning down to touch your toes)
Don’t let this small, tiny list scare you. There are so many other exercises you can do that will help to improve your body’s mechanics and get you on the road to recovery. The key here is to get started exercising everyday so you can increase your strength and lessen your back pain. Exercise really is the magic pill. It’s about time you all met!