Helpful Exercises for Back Pain
Exercise and stretching are very important on so many levels.
Proper alignment of the head over the shoulders over the hips over the knees over the feet, are imperative in maintaining a pain-free body. Firm abdominal muscles help to keep the back straight and strong. Bad posture habits can lock your muscles into positions you are not even aware your body is taking which can put unwanted strain on the lower back.
Exercise conditioning and stretching can improve certain pains with stretching such as painful, stiff muscles and joints by increasing blood flow to these areas. Weight baring exercises are beneficial for improving strength and bone density. Restoring movement and normal function to an injured area is critical. Learn to stretch to improve your flexibility.
Exercise increases the output of endorphins, which are hormones your body produces to fight pain.
Serotonin is a hormone that assists the flexibility of our blood vessels. Exercise increases the brain's supply of serotonin. This is important because when blood vessels are flexible, they are less likely to cause pain or irritation. Serotonin also improves mood, helps regulate sleep cycles and fights the pain response in the brain. It fights pain by blocking the brain's perception of pain.
Estrogen, the sex hormone that can interfere with serotonin, is stabilize with exercise.
Exercise should include cardiovascular aerobic activity 3- 4 times weekly. Weight baring exercise for 30 minutes to strengthen and maintain bone and muscle mass.
Exercise that promotes endurance (aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, bicycling, and jogging) or muscle strength (resistance training with free weights or weight machines) helps prevent coronary artery disease. People who are out of shape or who have not exercised in a long time should consult their doctor before they start an exercise program.
Properly stretch and warm up before placing any physical demands on your body and pay attention to what you body is telling you. Stop exercising before you feel pain or discomfort.
Your doctor can provide a safe and effective exercise plan based on your needs.
Be careful not to over exercise! Weekend warriors also have a tendency to "push" to hard to makeup for the time they have not exercised during the week. The two MOST BENEFICIAL exercises you can do to strengthen your back and relieve pain are the BACK STRENGTHENER and ABDOMINAL WORK.
Exercise: The Back Strengthener
Do this exercise up to 4 times a day.
Lay on the floor, stomach down. Slowly lengthen out the spine as you raise one arm and the opposite leg. Exhale as you raise up into an arch. Hold this as your take two deep breaths. Slowly release back to the floor. Inhale, as your raise up the other arm and opposite leg, exhale. Hold this arch agian for two deep breaths. Lower down. Inhale. Then raise both arms, leaving both feet on the floor. Exhale. Hold the arch as you take two deep breaths. Slowly lower down. Inhale. Raise both feet off the ground, leaving both arms on the floor. Exhale. Hold the arch for two deep breaths. Slowly lower down. Inhale. Lastly, raise both arms and both legs off the floor. Exhale. Hold this full arch for two deep breaths. Slowly lower down. Inhale. Repeat entire sequence one more time. This exercise should flow easily with the breath. (Always feel the energy pulling out in both directions from the top of the head and hands and out the bottom of the feet.) Try to arch up further each time. This amazing exercise will relieve back pain!
Exercise: Abdominal Work
Ab work can be done on a daily basis. By strengthening the abdominal wall you are helping to support the lower back. 300, 400, 500 situps are not only a waste of time but allows for that many more attempts to injure yourself. It is the quality not the quantity of sit ups that makes all the difference. SLOW and controlled is the most powerful approach. Stretching a sore back will actually enhance the healing process. One good stretch for lower back pain is to gently bring your knees up to your chest. Once there, put a little pressure on your knees. Stretch, then relax. Repeat. Stretching will help the muscle calm down sooner than just waiting for it to calm down on its own.
Exercise: Sciatic Pain
Sciatic pain is generally the result of pressure on the sciatic nerve. When an intervertebral disc presses on the nerve root as it leaves the spine it causes pain and often numbness along the route of the nerve which travels down the buttock, down the thigh and sometimes down into the lower leg. This can result in a feeling of weakness as well. This is sometimes caused by a disc prolapsed or "slipped disc". Since sciatic pain can be the result of a disc prolapsed, it is the prolapse that we need to understand. The prolapse is most often the result of a harmful habit or pattern of bending and putting stress on the spine. A herniated disc in the back, spinal stenosis and piriformis syndrome are also medical disorders that can cause sciatica.
Stretching a sore back will actually enhance the healing process. One good stretch for lower back pain is to gently bring your knees up to your chest. Once there, put a little pressure on your knees. Stretch, then relax. Repeat. Stretching will help the muscle calm down sooner than just waiting for it to calm down on its own.
A variation on this exercise is to lay on your back and gently bring one knee up to the chest. Keep the opposite leg elongated along the floor. Keep the energy of that foot moving out through the foot. Squeeze and hold the knee to the chest. You can make small circles with the knee. Pull your abs in and slowly lower the knee. Switch sides.
Stabilizing exercises are also best for strengthening the back. The most important aspect is sensing and controlling motion in the spine. Once learned, the body can eventually take over and do this without the level of concentration it takes early on.
In a standing position, cross right ankle over left knee. Now slowly bend your standing leg. Sit back in the position so you feel a stretch in the buttocks. To increase this stretch, use one hand and gently evert your foot by simple pulling the toes toward you. Keep the foot on the knee. Make sure you sit back into the buttocks in this sitting position. Switch legs.
Laying on the floor with knees bent, arms at sides, tighten abdomen and slowly raise alternate legs 3-4 inches from the floor. With the arms, lower the opposite arm over the head.
Laying on the floor with knees bent, feet on the floor, bridge upward, slowly raising the buttocks from the floor. These should all be performed with a rigid trunk. The pelvic tilt will be used to find the most comfortable position for the low back.
This same pelvic position is maintained while performing stabilizing exercises from the prone (on the stomach) position: With elbows bent and hands under the shoulders, raise one leg 2 to 3 inches from the floor. With elbows straight and arms stretched about the head, raise an arm and the opposite leg 2 to 3 inches off the floor.
Exercise variation can be done on hands and knees, raising the arms and legs only as high as can be controlled, maintaining a stable trunk and avoiding any twisting or sagging.
Raise one leg behind with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck. Raise one leg with the opposite arm with the knee slightly bent and no arch in the back or neck.
Exercise: Piriformis Syndrome
Lay on your back and gently bring one knee up to the chest. Keep the opposite leg elongated along the floor. Keep the energy of that foot moving out through the foot. Squeeze and hold the knee to the chest. You can make small circles with the knee. Pull your abs in and slowly lower the knee. Now gently stretch the knee so that it crosses your midline and hold the knee there for 15-30 seconds. Switch sides.
Andrew Pacholyk, MS. L.Ac
Therapies for healing
mind, body, spirit
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