Updated March 2016

exercise and lower back pain

Exercise

Exercise is an important activity in order for a successful treatment plan to effectively address the underlying issues with lower back pain.  However, exercise can either improve and help the symptoms associated with back pain or worsen them. The muscles that keep the back healthy and aligned need a properly structured exercise plan and routine for an effectiveness.

Many activities, exercises, and even some lower back exercises and stretches that we perform do not adequately prepare us.  Some in fact are the reason that we may have developed back pain originally.  Daily activities, chores, movements at work and the sports that we participate in require these specific exercises.

After sufficient rest, a low back exercise program should be followed as soon as possible, as too much rest can actually worsen back pain.  Too much rest causes muscles and joints to become stiffer and tighter.  This presents an obstacle to recovery.

Proper exercise will not only decrease back pain, but it help you to recover faster and will also help to prevent the risk of disability from future back pain.  Most exercises for the lower back can be done safely at home and with little help, equipment and investment.

The Core

 

the core musclesThe ‘Core’ is an often referred to area of the body that many fitness athletes and trainers address.   A healthy spine that is able to function without pain in an active lifestyle relies on a strong and stable core.    The core refers to the ‘core’ muscles of the body.    These are the deep muscles on the spine that support the lower back, hips and rest of the entire body.

Your body has major and minor core muscle groups.  Major core muscles include erector spinae, longissimus thoracis, rhomboids, splenius, semispinalis, multifidus, rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse abdominis, and the muscles of the pelvic floor.

Minor core muscle include trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and gluteus muscles.

For more details on the muscles groups involved, please see the sections of the website Back and Abdominal muscles and Hip Flexors and Hamstrings in this category.

Everyday functional movements that you perform are dependent on the muscles of the core.  Whether your core muscles are fit and strong or poorly conditioned and weak,  they are still the primary muscles required.   Their level of conditioning affects the degree of stress and pressure placed on the lumbar spine.

A strong and conditioned core keeps the spine and pelvis stable and allows the rest of the body to move more effectively.  A weak core leads to back pain and injury.  It is more important to develop a strong core than it is to develop the other muscles of the body during times of exercise, training and sports activity.  These activities will benefit with core development and recovery time will improve.   core muscle exercise

Core muscles have a static and dynamic element to them.  Dynamic function is when they are active during times of movement.  Static function when there is no movement of the body and the muscles are simply being used  in instances of standing or sitting upright.  Here your muscles sustain a constant weight and pressure, and endurance is required.

If your core muscles do not have sufficient static function, you are more likely to fatigue when performing many simple tasks such as standing in line, sitting for long periods of time or even carefully putting on small articles of clothing.

Core muscles are very difficult to train and exercise because the majority of them are not visible and do not appear more developed with training.

Simply training only the muscles groups that we see in the mirror may help to keep us fit and feel better about ourselves but offer little in terms of protection of the lower back.

 Core muscle training may not give obvious visual benefits that may boost your self image or easily show progress in a fitness routine but they demonstrate their worth when tested ‘during’ the activity itself.  Some exceptions are the abdominals and the gluteal muscles.  The conditioning and fitness of the core muscles are more obvious during the actual exercise itself and their ability is recognized more during extended use.

You will notice more improvement in the relief of low back pain when your core also improves.  This improvement in your core will happen when your dynamic and static function improves.   Functional improvement allows us to have more stability, balance, strength and endurance which directly affects the lower back.

Obstacles

 

obstacles to back pain reliefWhen trying to exercise core muscle groups, there is a significant obstacle that prevents us from making significant progress.

Most back pain sufferers are already in a state where the core muscles have lost sufficient strength, stamina, and many other muscles have developed a protective measure to prevent further nerve related injury and pain.

Over time, chronic stiffness, tightness and muscle guarding (a protective measure by the muscle) has occurred to a degree that mobility is far too limited and difficult.  It is difficult for the person to perform the exercise if they physically feel limited.  The person may even believe that their body is not physically as ‘flexible’ as they think and avoid participation.

Through careful slow steps, tightness, weakness, flexibility and mobility can improve and the requirements of the treatment and program will become less challenging and progress.

For most of us this is the most difficult part of following a back pain exercise program as it is not the program itself that is not effective, but the commitment and determination of the user during the recovery process.

The purpose of this site is to bring awareness to the different factors that affects low back pain such as the involvement of the core muscles.   It is also to provide a low back exercise program that will help to develop and condition these areas to provide long term pain relief and prevention.