Video: Why is Exercise Important for Lower Back Pain?

Video presented by Grant Cooper, MD

Video Transcript

Exercise is such an important thing for all of us to be doing for a whole host of reasons. In the lower back in particular, doing the right kinds of exercises for the lower back as part of an overall exercise routine can be such an important thing. Something that I tell people when they come in with lower back pain from a variety of different causes and they are concerned it could now be a lifelong thing that they are dealing with is I say, "Look, typically we are going to get this better and there's a glass half-full/half-empty way of looking at this. The glass half-empty is after somebody goes through an episode of lower back pain and they do nothing about it and just take care of the symptoms, then they are going to be more likely in the future probably to develop a similar kind of episode somewhere down the line. The glass half-full way of looking at it is if they take this as a learning experience and they learn a set of exercises that are going to take the pressure off the spine, then in some way they are going to be less likely than their neighbor to have anything like this happen to them in the future."

Most of us at some point in our lives are going to experience some kind of lower back pain. Most of us can probably prevent a lot of it if we took the time to do a few simple exercises to help take the pressure off the back and keep the back nice and healthy. The trouble is getting people to do those exercises before the fact. If we all just took an ounce of prevention, it would go a long way to alleviate a lot of the problems of lower back pain.

The reason that those kinds of exercise for the lower back are so important is because the spine is like a mast on a ship. The same way that a mast on a ship has all these ropes attached to it, the ropes are attached to the mast to help unload the mast so that the mast doesn't fall over and crack. A mast cannot support its own weight without the ropes. The same is true with the human spine. If you take the human spine out and put it on the table and you put some axial pressure on it, it can support about thirty-five pounds of pressure. We all weigh more than thirty-five pounds, so we all rely on certain muscles that attach onto the spine to take the pressure off of the spine. When those muscles are weak or imbalanced or not integrated properly, then the stresses that go though us every day, instead of getting taken up by the muscles the way that we'd like them to, they start going through the static structures in the spine - the things that can't get out of the way, such as the discs and the facet joints. This leads to a lot of wear and tear within the spine. By getting the muscles right, we take the pressure off the spine and we make the spine a lot more durable.

Doing exercises for the spine doesn't have to be a life change or even a major commitment, but we do need to be consistent with it. We should plan to do at least ten to fifteen minutes of exercises on a relatively daily basis to retrain the muscles.