Back pain is the second most common reason to visit the GP, with almost eight out of 10 of us experiencing it at least once in our lives. It’s also the number one cause of sick leave – and sufferers are getting younger. Chronic back pain has been called a modern epidemic – so how do we help prevent and manage it?
It rarely has a serious cause, usually being brought on by bad posture, awkward sleeping positions, and other lifestyle habits. Exercise is one of the best ways to help reduce back pain and keep it from returning.
Stretching, strengthening, and conditioning exercises can result in stronger muscles that support the spine and your body’s weight. When your skeleton is supported, you are less likely to suffer injury and back pain. Take a look below for five useful exercises to beat back pain:
You need to take care of the core muscles that support your spine. There are many workouts for back pain that do this, and your doctor or therapist should be able to give you specific advice and training for your unique back pain condition.
A good example of a safe strengthening exercise is the pelvic tilt. To do this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your stomach muscles until you can press the small of your back flat against the floor. Hold the press for about five seconds and repeat up to 10 times.
Keeping your core muscles limber is as important as keeping them strong. Two good stretching exercises are the knee-to-chest and the hamstring stretch.
To do the knee-to-chest, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee up to your chest and use your hands to pull the knee close while flattening out your back; then repeat with the other knee. The hamstring stretch is done from the same starting position. Pick up one leg with both hands placed behind your knee and then straighten your lower leg. These stretches should be held for about 20 seconds and repeated five times. Be sure to warm up before you stretch.
Stretches to avoid: one of the worst stretches for a person with back pain is bending over to touch your toes while keeping your legs straight. Even worse is bouncing while trying to touch your toes. Other bad workouts for back pain are ones that require you to bend or twist with any type of weight in your hand.
An aerobic exercise is any exercise that uses the big muscles of your body in a rhythmic and repetitive way. Aerobic exercise can get the blood flowing to your back muscles, which can really help them recover from injury and increase their strength. Walking is a good low-impact aerobics choice for your back, but swimming may be an even better workout for back pain if you get backaches.
In general, swimming is an excellent form of low-impact aerobic conditioning that is easy on the back and spine, with swimming there is practically no impact on the spinal structures. The water supports the body, relieving stress on all joints in the body.
Yoga and Pilates
Three all-around good workouts for back pain are Yoga, Pilates and working with an exercise ball. Yoga and Pilates are great because, as long as your teacher knows your limitations, they can be adapted safely for most people with back pain.
Yoga and Pilates are both fantastic mind-body workouts that can dramatically improve your overall fitness and wellbeing if regular practice is put into place. In terms of flexibility, both workouts can improve overall flexibility as well as increase spinal flexibility. Increasing spinal flexibility will really help to improve your fitness performance, in addition to helping prevent injuries.
Pilates focuses on spinal flexibility through the articulation of the spine. It is excellent as a strengthening exercise and supporting your back. Pilates and Yoga stretch benefits include improving your posture, helping support the spinal column, and alleviating back pain. However certain postures such as deep back bends and cobras can be a bit risky, especially if you suffer from any back pain.