I love this question! It is something I get asked when I am out socially and people discover I work with back pain and injuries. The truth is no one set of exercises fits all back pain problems. In fact, every person I see in my practice is so completely different it never ceases to amaze me. For instance someone with a disc prolapse may really benefit from a back extension mobilization and stretch. If I give the same stretch to someone with stenosis (bone spurs) it will push on the already smaller spaces where the nerves exit the spine and aggravate their condition. It gets more complex when I have someone who has both of these conditions or multiple spine issues. Believe me there is no one size fits all. Here are some golden rules about exercise that apply to most all back pain sufferers.....
If there is one thing you take away from this article please make it the importance of movement. Every day moving around trumps sitting or lying still every time. The key to movement for relief of pain, especially when it is very sore, is to do it gently. If you are desk bound at work get up and walk around, take the stairs for a few floors, get out for lunch, walk to the water cooler. Walking can often provide a sense of relief (however if it makes it worse and sitting relieves it then take a rest periodically). Things to avoid are heavy lifting and too much bending over to pick things up off the floor.
2. Specific back mobilizations
I recommend my clients do gentle back specific mobilizations upon waking daily to ease the back into the day. If you suffer from stiffness upon waking these mobilizations can be very effective at reducing your pain in less time. Ideally you should have someone show you how to do mobilizations that are specific to your back problem. However, you can download your copy of the
that I give my clients
. Be sure to read the instructions carefully - small and gentle is key!
3. Corrective exercise for postural alignment and stability
Here lies the key to getting your back pain sorted. Corrective exercise focusses on your alignment, stability and core activation and moves your through stages of development from small isolating exercises right up to functional often loaded movement. This is where you can get mobilizations, stretches and exercise tailored to your specific condition. At Precision Movement I always give programmes for the relief of pain when your back is sore, daily home programmes, a set of stretches to do at your desk, and a programme for the gym as required.
4. The Gym
If you are suffering from intense back pain avoid lifting heavy weights. Weights create axial (vertical downward) loading on your spine and if you are already in discomfort the worst thing you can do is increase the pressure on areas of discomfort. You could seriously hurt yourself. Do not use machines as a substitute either. Machines isolate and stress your big muscles without using the stabilizers around the joints. If your back is sore the last thing you want to do is make it more unstable or have the larger muscles pulling on it. It would be better to do some gentle yoga or pilates work being mindful of your postural alignment and core activation until your back settles. If you are a regular gym user make sure you have a professional with rehabilitation experience look over what you are doing.
5. Running, biking, rowing and cross trainer cardio machines
If you would like to do some cardio work the key to not aggravating your back is to change it up. Sustained positions can be aggravating for the back. When your back is sore avoid jumping and running as a greater amount of load is placed through the spine and this can be jarring to the back. Cycling and cross trainer are gentler options for cardio and can be alternated. For the bike make sure you are sitting properly and have a professional check your position before you begin. I would avoid rowing when your back is bad especially if you have any disc prolapses and proceed with caution under supervision.
For more information about how corrective exercise can help your specific back pain or injury contact KT at
. Download my eBook '7 steps to getting your back pain sorted' - the link is on the right hand side (just scroll up a bit!).