There is a good chance that you have either had low back pain or know someone that does. They may have had surgery, or they may be doing all of the can to avoid surgery. It’s one of those conditions that once you experience it, you never forget the feeling. It’s not just physically taxing, it’s also mentally and psychologically exhausting. Trying to get relief from back pain can be so frustrating. Sometimes it just goes away for no apparent reason, and other times no matter what you do, you can’t get any relief. There is an approach called medical exercise training for lower back pain that can help you get relief.
Exercising for Lower Back Pain
We know that exercise is important when you have lower back pain. Decades ago we thought bed rest was the best way to treat lower back pain, but we know that’s not the case today. The key isn’t as much exercise, as it is, proper exercise. If you have two different people with lower back pain, but two different diagnosis, one exercise can help one person but hurt the other. One example is crunches or sit-ups. As soon as you tell someone you have back pain, it’s often one of the first things people will throw at you for suggestions. Crunches and sit-ups are an exercise where you flex your spine forward and pull your body up. If you have a herniated disc though, there is a chance you will actually cause more damage to the disc. There are some universal guidelines you can follow that will help you with your back pain though.
Exercise – The Big Picture
When we work with clients with low back pain, we look at a few broad things for their program to include.
- Core Strength – Exercises are to be performed in a neutral spine position. We want the transverse abdominals to be as strong as possible in order to give support to the spine. We can have a lot of fun with this type of exercise because the goal is to have the client maintain a neutral spine as we put stress on the body. It’s amazing the amount of exercises that can be performed in a variety of ways. Dead bug is probably one of our most popular beginning exercises, but we love to progress to standing core exercises when appropriate.
- Cardiovascular Endurance – You probably won’t feel your back go out from picking up something too heavy. Normally you get hurt towards the end of the day when you are tired and fatigued. You suddenly pick up something improperly and then you feel your back start hurting. We want to improve your cardiovascular endurance as much as possible so you will not compromise on your posture and biomechanics when you start to pick up something from the ground. The more endurance you have, the more likely you are to keep good form and posture as the day goes on.
- Leg Strength – Similar to cardiovascular endurance, leg strength is extremely important. How many times have you picked up something with your back because your legs or tired or something seems too heavy to pick up otherwise. You don’t mean to, it’s just a natural movement you do, but the amount of stress you place on your back will overload your spine. The biggest mistake people make with working legs has to do with using too much of your quadriceps. The glutes are the most important muscle you have. You have to get to the point where you are using and strengthening your glute muscles. It is the most important muscle you can strengthen to protect your spine. Let me say that again. Your glutes are the most important muscles you can strengthen to protect your spine.
- Push – Pushing exercises are important because it is something we do on occasion. Sure, we aren’t pushing farm equipment around, and most of the things we do push has wheels, but you still need to work on pushing exercises. Examples of this are standing chest presses. This involves the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but when done properly also uses your core muscles. It’s a great exercise to include in your routine and one you probably didn’t think was important before. Try not to do this sitting down though. Get up on your feet and workout.
- Pull – The opposite of the pushing exercises are the pulling exercises. An example of this is the standing row. When in the gym, we often focus on “mirror muscles”, muscles we can see when we look in the mirror. Your back muscles are so important. Stand up, tighten your core, and pull the weight down and use rhomboids. You will have to engage your legs and hips in order to do the exercise properly. The great thing about many of the exercises we choose for clients is that it involves so many muscle groups at once.
- Lift – How often do we hurt ourselves by picking up something? Yet we don’t take the time to do exercises in the gym that help. Sure we do leg presses and shoulder presses, but we never combine all of the muscles together and practice lifting things like you do in every day life. This is a great exercise to perform and you can build up your strength in order to handle heavier loads in time. Practice makes perfect, and it’s something you need to work on consistently.
- Carry – Carrying exercises can seem awkward, but guys, how many times do you try to carry all of the grocery bags in on one trip? That’s right. We don’t get a trophy for doing it, yet we still can’t help ourselves. When in the gym, work on carrying things. Some people will do a farmer’s walk, but you can also just work on picking up a medicine ball, carrying it across the room, and then practice putting it back down. This gives you the chance to work on both the lift and carry.
Exercise – The Little Details
There are still differences between various spine conditions and you have to pay attention to those little details as well. There are a ton of details depending on the diagnosis, but when exercising you have to design the rest of the program based on the diagnosis. Sometimes crunches are great and there are other times I would avoid them, again, depending on the diagnosis. We use our experience and knowledge in medical exercise training to help us, help others.
What is Medical Exercise Training?
Medical exercise training is a protocol based approach to working with a variety of medical conditions. We take the time to understand the medical conditions and then we design a program, preferably in coordination with your medical provider, to help you achieve your goals. We look at the total body, not just the back pain. We want to get in your business, as they say. Can we strengthen other muscle groups to help you get better faster? Can we increase your cardiovascular endurance in order to improve your tissue tolerance? Can we help you lose 20 pounds in order to take some pressure off your back? We look at everything and then we hold you accountable. When we work with clients, we don’t have to guess what we are going to do, hoping for the best. When we have someone with a specific condition that wants to get better, we help them improve and get better. That is what medical exercise training is all about.
Do you have back pain?
If you are struggling with back pain, contact us. We can help you get into a routine that will help your back and feel better. We will work with your medical provider and teach you what you need to know to improve. It’s really that simple.