Why Low Impact Exercise Is Important for Back Pain
A few decades back, the recommended treatment for back pain was painkillers and bed rest. However, with research increasingly showing that inactivity actually undermines healing, doctors today are taking a different approach. Low-impact exercises, done in a controlled and careful way are now the common prescription for those suffering from back pain. But how does exercise rehabilitate an injured spine or alleviate back pain? Read on to discover why low impact exercise is important for back pain.
Zero Activity Causes Pain to Worsen
In the natural, exercise may seem counter-intuitive since putting more pressure to an already strained back can make matters worse. The truth however is that bed rest or minimal activity is what causes back pain to worsen. The human body requires movement and physical activity for various body parts including bones and soft tissues to remain in good condition. For this reason, inactivity causes a bunch of negative effects including stiffening, weakening, and de-conditioning of joints, muscles, bones, and soft tissues of the body. When this happens in the back, pain tends to aggravate, making it more difficult for healing to occur. As a result, pain can drag out for a while, with further inactivity only working to make things worse.
Another negative effect of inactivity is that it slows down circulation making it difficult for the discs of the spine to get the nourishment they need to stay healthy. With little nourishment, the discs then dry out and become inflexible causing an increase in pain. The situation can get even worse if the original cause of pain was damage to the discs.
Exercise Promotes Healing and Relieves Pain
Exercise in the case of back pain delivers the complete opposite effects of inactivity. For starters, exercise keeps things moving properly which means the required nutrients get to your muscles, ligaments, joints, and into the disc spaces throughout the spine. With these back structures properly nourished the back then starts healing itself, thereby eliminating the cause of the pain. Additionally, exercise prevents stiffening and weakening of back structures, thereby minimizing both severity and duration of back pain.
In addition to these 2 key benefits, exercising also helps to:
- Strengthen the muscles that support the lower back, thus helping to speed up recovery
- Improve your threshold for pain which helps to make back pain more bearable
- Increase production of feel-good endorphins, which help reduce pain
Why Low Impact Exercise?
Although exercise plays a beneficial role in rehabilitating the back and alleviating pain, overexertion may cause further harm. Intense or high impact exercises put a lot of pressure on muscles and joints and will therefore cause an increase in pain or damage of spine joints and discs if done when the back is at less than 100% healthy. This is why low-impact exercises are the way to go for people suffering from back pain. Low-impact exercises are less jarring to body joints and less intense on the back. They therefore deliver the benefits of exercise without worsening back pain.
While back pain can be debilitating, a bit of low impact exercises can make the condition more bearable by significantly reducing both the severity and duration of back pain. So, make sure to stay active the next time you suffer from back pain.
4 Exercises to Prevent Back Pain in Those That Work at a Computer
Does your job have you crouched over a computer all day? If so, you should know that your job is literally killing you slowly by wreaking havoc on your body. Sitting all day stiffens several body muscles, causes pain along several body parts (back, neck, wrists, etc.), and increases your risk of developing chronic and serious illnesses. The worst damage however is done to the back.
Sitting all day causes an overuse of back muscles as the hip flexors and hamstrings tighten and shorten forcing the back to work at supporting your torso. This coupled with poor posturing puts the back at great stress that exposes you to a wide range of risks including suffering back pain and developing spine disorders.
Since switching jobs may not be a viable option, try the following exercises instead. They will help to counteract the negative effects of sitting all day.
1) The Couch Stretch
Although a little hard to do, the couch stretch is a killer when it comes to preventing back pain. This exercise gives the back a good stretch that helps to relieve the tension that builds up after a long day of sitting. The best part of the couch stretch however is that it opens up the hip flexors – a benefit that greatly helps to prevent back pain.
Another nice benefit of the couch stretch is that it stretches the quads and works the knees, both of which tend to stiffen after prolonged sitting.
Yoga is another excellent option when it comes to preventing or alleviating back pain. With yoga, you will be able to target areas of tension and therefore loosen as well as strengthen said areas. And the best part is that there are several poses to choose from all of which yield great results. For instance, the ‘Downward Facing-Dog’ pose loosens up the shoulders, relaxes the neck, and gives the legs, wrists, hands, and back a good stretch. This yoga pose also strengthens several body muscles (including those of the back) and counteracts the effects of hours of poor posturing. Other yoga poses that are effective at relieving back tension and strengthening muscles include the ‘Child’s Pose’, ‘Cobra Pose’, and the ‘Cat and Cow Pose’.
3) Calf and Hamstring Stretch
Prolonged sitting tightens the calf and hamstring muscles. This results in compensatory movements that put a strain on the back. A calf and hamstring stretch can undo the damage and thereby prevent back pain.
For this routine, you will begin by lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep hips level on the floor and allow a small curve on your lower back. Lift one leg off the ground with the knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Slowly bend and straighten that knee as far as you can without feeling pain with your heel reaching towards the ceiling. Bring the lifted leg back to the starting position and do 6-8 reps before switching to the other leg.
4) Passive Extension
Most of us take on a slouching posture when working at a computer. This posture puts stress on the spine making it likely for one to develop pain-causing conditions such as a herniated disc, degeneration of the spine, sciatica, and many others. The passive extension stretch routine can help undo the stress placed on the spine due to slouching.
This routine is done by lying down on a mat and placing a rolled up towel under the bottom third of your shoulder blades. Your arms can be placed in any position whether stretched out at your sides, reaching over the head, or by your sides. Once you have achieved this position, bring your knees to a 90-degree bend with the feet firmly planted on the mat. From there, tighten your pelvis so that your lower back presses gently into the floor. Hold the position for a minute or two before relaxing your pelvis.
The great thing about these exercises is that they take up very little space and time. Therefore, you can perform them at home after a long day at the office or in the office at regular intervals throughout the day. Either way, they will save you from back pain and make your back better equipped at handling stress.