This is the third part of my series on low back pain and again based off a talk I gave to a business group I spoke to on this topic. The previous two blogs were more about why PT is effective and how it can save money when you have low back pain. This blog is the more practical side of what you can do if you have low back pain.
Again, research shows that physical therapy and exercise are the best ways to treat low back pain, and not rest, pain medication or surgery. This is not a prescription, these are only suggestions. Nothing replaces a one on one consultation with a physical therapist who can examine you and give you exercises specific to your body. If you need that please contact me or another physical therapist. What is in this article are only suggestions and not prescriptions.
Exercise is as effective in the long term as surgery for back pain. If exercising on your own seems overwhelming physical therapy is a great place to start. A physical therapist can help guide your exercises and your exercise progression, as well as help reduce the pain and give advice on how to prevent the pain from returning.
There are a lot of muscles connected to the back. It may seem scary when you are in pain to know what exercises to do to help and which you should avoid in order not to worsen the pain. A good physical therapist is going to look at you as a whole person, not just look at your back. When I assess a patient I look at how they move, how they sit, how they stand and how the muscles in their back, stomach, hips and legs are all functioning. Often it is something attached to the back that is weak or tight and not the back muscles themselves.
The back muscles in the human body are postural endurance muscles. They are mostly long, thin, flat muscles made to hold our body in an upright position all day. They are not big bulky muscles that are meant to do heavy work such as our biceps or our legs. That affects how we should train the different muscles.
In my experience often, my patients who come in with back pain do not have a back problem. More than likely they have a hip or leg problem that creates pain in their back. I check to make sure they don’t have tight hamstrings pulling on their back or weak hips that can’t support their body weight. Those are some common problems that result in back pain.
Here are a few exercises I like to give patients with back pain:
The piriformis stretch will stretch out tight hip muscles:
Slouch- over correct gives mobility to the spine which decreases stiffness.
Cat camel also helps create motion through the spine and decrease stiffness:
Bird-dog works on stability throughout the core:
Bridging strengthens the hips and buttocks to support the spine:
Again, these are some common exercises I give to patients who come see me for their low back pain, this is not a prescription for you, the reader. Nothing can replace an individualized and personalized exercise prescription given to you based on your body and your needs. I would love to help give you relief from your low back pain so please contact me today if you need help with this.