Back pain and Exercises

Backache is a pain in the back caused by degenerative changes, injury, swelling or rarely, cancer. Usually the lower part of the back is involved and the pain worsens when a person bends forward. The muscles of the back may become weak and tender. Backache because of age-related changes may radiate to the legs due to pressure on the spinal nerves.
Backaches usually indicate a strain of the back muscles. There are nearly 200 muscles in the back that maintain the upright posture. The triggering event could be the carrying of a heavy weight, lifting from an awkward position, or overexertion of the back muscles. A direct injury to the back or degenerative changes in the bones of the spinal cord, due to age, could also cause backache.

Benefits of exercise for back pain
For many people, the key to a healthy back is proper exercise. You can minimise the problems related to back pain with exercises. These exercises make the muscles in your back, stomach, hips and thighs strong and flexible. Some exercises help to strengthen your back and stomach muscles, while other exercises are designed to improve your posture. A 30-minute aerobic conditioning program three times a week is ideal for overall fitness. Walking and/or water exercise are highly recommended for most people with back problems.

The right kind of exercise program may help you keep your back problem under control. It can make it easier for you to continue doing your daily activities. You may need to take a break from vigorous exercise if it makes your back pain worse. Before starting an exercise programme, discuss with your doctor and physical/physio therapist as to which exercises you can do to relieve back pain, stay fit, and prevent injuring yourself further.

Exercise programme

Before exercising you should warm up with slow, rhythmic exercises; if you haven’t exercised in some time, you can warm up by walking. Inhale deeply before each repetition of an exercise and exhale when performing each repetition. It is important to exercise regularly, every other day.

Include following types of exercises to minimise the back pain:
Exercises to strengthen your muscles

Wall slides to strengthen back, hip and leg muscles: Stand with your back against a wall and feet-shoulder width apart. Slide down into a crouch with knees bent to about 90 degrees. Count to five and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.

Leg raises to strengthen back and hip muscles: Lie on your stomach. Tighten the muscles in one leg and raise it from the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat five times with each leg.

Leg raises to strengthen stomach and hip muscles: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Lift one leg off the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat five times with each leg. If that is too difficult, keep one knee bent and the foot flat on the ground while raising the leg.
Partial sit-up to strengthen stomach muscles: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor and reach with both hands toward your knees. Count to 10. Repeat five times.

Back leg swing to strengthen hip and back muscles: Stand behind a chair with your hands on the back of the chair. Lift one leg back and up while keeping the knee straight. Return slowly. Raise other leg and return. Repeat five times with each leg.

Exercises to decrease the strain on your back

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on your bed or floor. Raise your knees toward your chest. Place both hands under your knees and gently pull your knees as close to your chest as possible. Do not raise your head. Do not straighten your legs as you lower them. Start with five repetitions, several times a day.

Stand with your feet slightly apart. Keep your knees straight. Bend backwards at the waist as far as possible and hold the position for one or two seconds.

Posture training

If poor posture is a factor, then posture training may help relieve your back pain. Techniques for Good Posture:

When sitting
• Sit in a firm chair with armrests to relieve pressure in your back and shoulders.
• Keep your upper back straight and shoulders relaxed. Keep stomach muscles pulled in, and maintain the proper curve in your lower back.
• You can do this by tightening your stomach and buttocks. Some people are more comfortable sitting with the back of the chair at a 15- to 20-degree angle. A small cushion behind the lower back to maintain the natural curve of the back also can be of help.
• Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips.
• Use a footstool or book under your feet if necessary.
• Keep your feet flat on the floor or other surface.
• Don’t sit for a long period of time. Stand up every now and then to stretch tight muscles and give them a chance to relax.

When standing
• Stand with weight equal on both feet.
• Avoid locking your knees.
• Ease tension in your back by placing one foot on a footstool.
• If you stand for long periods of time, wear flat or low-heeled shoes.
• Keep your back straight by tightening your stomach muscles and buttocks.

When sleeping
• Lie on your side with your knees bent.
• If more comfortable, place a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side.
• If you sleep on your back, ask your doctor or physical therapist if placing pillows under your knees would help your lower back pain or make it worse.
• Use a firm mattress.

When in motion: To keep good posture while in motion is to use good body mechanics. In lifting, this means that the object lifted is held close to the body and that lifting is done with your legs. The normal back curves are maintained, the legs lift the load. Avoidance of twisting, particularly when carrying a load, is also important for good body mechanics. Move your feet, do not twist your torso. Avoid the incorrect way; instead, lift correctly.
• When bending down to lift an object, bend with your knees instead of your back.
• Hold the object close to you.
• Straighten your legs to lift the object.
• Get help with an object that is too heavy.

The type of shoes you wear can also affect your posture. High heels may put more stress on your lower back by changing your posture. You might find it more comfortable to wear low or flat heels. Cushioned-soled shoes also provide “shock absorbency” for your spine