Back to Basics – Actively Managing Low Back Pain
Low Back Pain is a common problem that affects about 85% of adults in the western world: it can be very distressing and affect our work and daily activities.There are many mysteries and myths about low back pain, but usually it is not a serious condition in itself. Once the acute symptoms have settled, research shows that back pain can be managed with a regular exercise programme.
There are many reasons why people experience back pain, some of these conditions include spinal degeneration, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, osteoporosis, and ligament strain. Spinal instability is considered as an abnormal movement between one vertebra and another, a result from either a spinal degeneration or inhibition of the deep back and abdominal muscles.
During an episode of acute low back pain Physiotherapy is proven to be effective at reducing the severity and duration of the symptoms. In most cases, acute low back pain lasts for less then three weeks. In some cases, further imaging and specialist care is indicated. In most cases, however, the acute symptoms will resolve. the problem comes with recurrence. Recurrent low back pain occurs as a result of progressive weakening of the back muscles after the acute episode. This is when back stabilisation exercises are necessary to improve spinal stability and prevent the pain from recurring.
In my twenty-year clinical career, I have found that, in order to effectively manage low back pain, a walking programme is, literally, the first step. Walking maintains normal circulation, flexibility, bone density, enhances mood, controls blood sugar, and improves basic muscular activity.
Research also shows that these three primary exercises – The Slow Curl Up, The Side Plank and The Bird Dog are effective at improving strength and endurance through the core and help prevent recurrence.
The Slow Curl Up
The Slow Curl Up is an exercise routine that may look like a regular abdominal crunch, but it’s not. This exercise helps you get better engagement of your abdominal muscles with minimal stress on your spine, as it stays in its naturally arched position throughout the entire exercise.
1. Lie on your back on the floor. Bend one leg and leave other one to stay straight and flat.
2. Place the back of one hand underneath the natural arch of your lower back to preserve the curve. Depending on the size of your arch you can put one hand on top of the other or simply clasp your hands together.
3. Slowly raise your chest, shoulders, and head off the floor, keeping your lower back in contact with the back of the hand.
4. Keep the position for couple of seconds while breathing deeply. Then slowly return to the starting position.
5. Hold for 60 seconds.
The Side Plank
The Side Plank is an exercise that targets the endurance capacity of the paraspinal muscles, gluteals, and obliques. When you perform this exercise, you strengthen these muscles, so your lower back and spine have greater support and are better protected from injury caused by back strain and/or sudden movements.
1. Lay on your side with your elbow on the floor under the shoulder.
2. Slowly lift up on that elbow, keeping the body stiff from head to toe and the legs straight.
3. You should be able to increase this hold time to 60 seconds, then return back to the start position.
4. Perform the side plank on the opposite side.
The Bird Dog
The Bird Dog is a great exercise for improving muscle balance and condition, keeping the spine stable which carries over into everyday activity. This exercise also tones your glutes, upper back, lower spine, and hamstrings.
1. Begin on all fours, with knees hip-width apart and under the hips, hands flat and shoulder-width apart.
2. Squeeze your abs by pulling the belly towards the spine. Keep the spine neutral, without arching the back or rotating the hips.
3. Extend your right leg back and your left arm straight ahead. Hold for two to three seconds or as long as you can maintain form.
4. Repeat five to six times on each side.