Chronic and acute back pain plagues 70 percent of all adults in the United States, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Medical bills for back pain treatments total more than $25 billion annually.
Why is back pain so common? Our sedentary lifestyles and lack of proper conditioning to perform certain tasks cause back strain and the debilitating pain that often follows.
Build a Strong Core
Build a stronger back by developing a strong core. Core musculature includes abdominal, low back, pelvic floor and diaphragmatic muscles. The body compensates for a weak core by transferring stress to the low back. While these muscles do not move joints, developing endurance strength in the core muscles allows us to maintain correct posture and move efficiently. An exercise regimen that includes weight-bearing and core exercises can help resolve pain and prevent further injury.
Perform these exercises on the floor every day:
Cat/Camel: With knees and hands on the floor, start in a neutral position, head facing down and spine relaxed. slowly arch your lower back while lifting your head up and back; then, slowly try to reverse the arch in your lower back by bringing your hips toward your shoulders, tucking your chin to your chest at the same time. Perform this movement slowly several times.
Quadruped Arm/Leg Raise: With knees and hands on the floor, start in a neutral position, head facing down and spine relaxed. Raise and straighten your right leg directly behind your hip; at the same time, raise and straighten your left arm directly in front of your shoulder. Your upper arm should be touching your ear and hips must remain level. Hold for 10 seconds and then perform the exercise with the opposite arm and leg up.
Prone Isometric Abs: Lie face down with legs straight and elbows bent, resting your upper body on your forearms. Begin in a neutral position with head facing down and spine relaxed. Brace or contract your abdomen while raising your body off the floor using forearms and toes. Drop your heels back below your toes and "lock" yourself into place. It is important to keep your body in a straight line. Do not arch your lower back or let your pelvis sink toward the floor. Hold this position for 5 to 20 seconds keeping abs tight.
Add Flexibility Training
Low back pain is often associated with leg and hip muscles that are chronically tight. Daily stretching can help alleviate pain as muscles "re-learn" their proper length.
Add lower body stretches morning and evening for calves, thighs (quadriceps and hamstrings) and hips (glutes and hip flexors).
Teach yourself to brace your abdominal muscles before you lift, bend or perform a strenuous activity. Learn to bend using your hips while stabilizing your spine and lower back.
Bear in mind that back pain can be elusive to treat: A treatment that may help one person may make another person feel worse. Never start a new exercise regimen until pain and swelling subside. If undiagnosed pain persists, seek a professional assessment from an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist.
- The New York Times: With Rising Costs, Treating Back Pain Often Seems Futile
- Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance; Stuart McGill, Ph.D.; 2004
- Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries; Peggy A. Houglum; 2010