Lower back exercises
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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There are multiple approaches to the management of back pain.
Various exercise programs are often recommended for those dealing with chronic low back pain.
Reasons posited for the effectiveness of exercise programs include that exercise increases the amount of endorphins (painkilling chemicals produced by the body); that it can improve back health; and that it can stabilize the muscles that protect the back. The specific purpose of exercises or programs are:
• Strengthening abdominal and back muscles
• Making muscles more resilient to prevent injury
• Education in regards to stretching and movement to reduce stiffness and muscle spasm
• Improving fitness, strength, posture
While brief rest (24 hours) may be helpful for acute low back pain or acute flares occurring in the face of chronic low back syndromes, too much rest and lack of movement leads to a loss of fitness and actually worsens the condition.
Here are a few simple exercises. Do not do these exercises if they make you feel worse. Also... start slow. Do not perform these exercises until you get the OK from your physical therapist or physician.
Torso Bend Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands on the small of your back. With knees straight, bend backwards at the waist. Bend as far as possible and hold for one or two seconds.
Crunches: With your hands touching the back of your head, slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor 4-6 inches. Hold that position for a ten count. Do five reps. Do not pull on your neck to lift yourself up. Use your abs to increase core strength.
Wall Glide. Stand with your back firmly against a wall. Feet about shoulder width apart. Keeping your back against the wall bend at the knees and slide down the wall until your knees are flexed to about 90 degrees. Hold that position for a count of five. Slide back up the wall. Do five reps.
Thigh Raise: Lie on your stomach. Lift your left leg as far as you can comfortably. Hold it for a count to 10. Lower. Do 5 reps each leg.
Backwards Leg Swing: Using a chair for balance, lift your left leg backwards and up. Keep your knee straight. Hold the position then lower the leg. Do 5 reps with each leg.
One Legged Lift: Lie on your back with your arms flat at your side. Keeping the leg straight, lift your left leg off the floor 6 inches and hold for a count of 10. Keep your pelvis flat on the floor as you lift the leg. Do 5 reps each leg.
Obviously, with any exercise for lower back pain start slow.
In addition to stretching and strengthening, it is also a good idea to start a non-impact aerobic exercise program. Walking with well-cushioned shoes is probably the simplest exercise for most people.
An elliptical trainer is a piece of exercise equipment that is valuable and offers a very nice low impact, back-friendly workout.
People with low back syndromes should avoid standard stationary bicycles (recumbent bikes are better) and rowing machines.
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