Exercise and Back Pain

A typical response to experiencing back pain is to take it easy - either staying in bed or at least stopping any activity that is at all strenuous. While this approach is understandable and may even be recommended in the short term, when done for more than a day or two it can actually undermine healing. Instead, active forms of back exercises are almost always necessary to rehabilitate the spine and help alleviate back pain.

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When done in a controlled, gradual, and progressive manner, active back exercises distribute nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues in the back to keep the discs, muscles, ligaments, and joints healthy. Consequently, a regular routine of lower back exercises helps patients avoid stiffness and weakness, minimize recurrences of lower back pain, and reduce the severity and duration of possible future episodes of low back pain.

Depending upon the patient's specific diagnosis and level of pain, the back pain exercises and rehabilitation programs will be very different, so it is important for patients to see a spine specialist trained to develop an individualized program of back exercises and to provide instruction on using the correct form and technique.

To be effective, a patient's program of back exercises should be comprehensive, working the whole body even if it targets the back. Two back exercises commonly advised by physical therapists to treat back pain are McKenzie exercises and dynamic lumbar stabilization.

A balanced workout of back exercises should include a combination of stretching, strengthening, and low-impact aerobic conditioning.

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