Low back pain is one of the top three causes of disability in the world. An episode of acute low back pain will affect about 80% of us at sometime in our lives, and is one of the top reasons for time loss at work. According to the Canadian Chiropractic Association, it is estimated that the medical costs in Canada related to low back pain ranges between 6 and 12 billion dollars annually!
Causes of Back Pain
Low back pain is a complicated, multi factorial problem that often involves a trauma or long term additive stressors. There is a strong correlation between sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and heavy repetitive labor with increased risk of low back pain.
All of these factors involve the spine being weak and therefore more susceptible to injury when placed under a sudden load or repetitive stress. The best way to prevent this is to strengthen your spine.
The only well-researched treatment to prevent the re-occurrence of back pain is exercise. It is important to have a professional examine your spine and determine if there is any imbalance or weakness in your spine or extremities that could lead to pain. Exercises should start with stretching and a warm-up, and then lead into working the core area of the back. The intensity of your exercises should depend on your strength level. A progression over time should occur, including the addition of an unstable platform, by using a gym ball or half gym ball. The addition of weights is your next step. Six common key low back exercises include:
Planking is a great way to strengthen the back of your body including the hamstrings, butt, back extensors and neck extensors, while engaging your core. Beginners should try to hold the pose for 30 second intervals, and more advance people can hold the pose for over a minute.
To do a proper plank, you must:
1. Keep elbows, feet, and knees shoulder-width apart.
2. Keep spine parallel with the floor while holding yourself up on your elbows and toes.
3. Keep head in-line with your spine so that your head doesn't drop.
4. Breath steadily throughout the hold of the plank.
2. Pelvic Tilts
This exercise targets the lower back and abdominal muscles. Pelvic tilts can be done while laying on your back, sitting or standing. The easiest way is to do them on your back, laying on a firm surface.
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. In this neutral position, the natural curve of your lumbar spine will lift the lower back slightly off the floor.
2. Exhale and gently rock your hips toward your head. As you do this, you'll feel your lower back pressing into the floor.
3. Stay here for a few breaths. When you're ready, inhale and return to your neutral position.
Try to feel the stretch in your lower spine when doing both movements to achieve the tilts. Don't forget to breathe!
3. Back Bridges
This is the movement that fires up your butt muscles. It is a great core activating exercise that is easy to do.
1. Lay on your back with your knees bent to 45 degrees and your feet on the floor.
2. Place your arms out at 45 degree angles.
3. Tighten your stomach muscles and raise your butt off the floor until your spine is straight.
4. Squeeze your butt muscles at the top of the move and hold for 5-10 seconds.
4. Back Extensions
Extensions combine the movements associated with the pelvic tilt and the back bridges. Once again, this works on pelvic mobility and strengthening the muscles of the back.
1. Lie on a mat on your stomach and straighten your legs behind you. Place your elbows on the ground and slide your shoulders down.
2. Lift your upper back, pressing your hips into the mat. Keep your head and neck neutral. Hold for 30 seconds.
3. Lower to starting position. For a deeper stretch, put your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. You can also make it harder by placing your hands against your body.
5. Wall Squats
Wall squats are one of the best overall body weight exercises you can do. It works the legs, the core, and the back. Be careful with this one if you have any knee problems.
1. Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet out in front of you. Feet should be hip-distance apart.
2. Bending your knees, slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90 degree angles (45 degrees if you have sore knees). Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to inch your feet further from the wall to create proper alignment. Your thighs should remain parallel.
3. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, and then stand up.
4. To make this move more challenging, alternate between lifting your left heel for a few seconds and then your right. This helps to target your calves.
6. Cross Crawls
The cross crawl maneuver works the upper and lower body while helping with balance and body muscle control.
1. Go onto your hands and knees.
2. Keep your spine neutral with a slight arch in the low back.
3. Slowly raise your right arm and left leg till they are parallel with the ground. Make sure you keep your spine flat and that you don't rotate your spine to raise a hip or a shoulder
4. Lower your arm and leg and then do the same with the left arm and right leg
Back pain will affect almost all of us at some point in our lives. Visit our office and get a thorough exam of your spine and learn what you can do to eliminate and prevent your back pain. Our Chiropractic and Massage therapy teams are trained to evaluate and treat low back pain conditions.
Activity fact: Performing movements that require you to use the opposite lower and upper extremity (like the cross crawl), actually increases activity between the right and left side of the brain, causing better brain activity and communication.