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Author Topic: May 2008 Healthletter: What are the Best Back Pain exercises.  (Read 13910 times)

Steve Lockhart

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What Are The Best Back Pain Exercises.

As a therapist this is a question I get asked a lot. Generally back pain and sciatica sufferers get confused because they get given a different set of exercises by each of the therapist they see and understandably this becomes very confusing.

The thing about exercises when it comes to back pain is, it’s important to do ones that strengthen without putting a lot of stress on the muscles by generating force whilst under pressure from gravity.

What I mean by that is the best ones are any gentle, non weight bearing ones that don’t load up or stretch out the muscles too much. So even freestyle swimming can be a bad choice for some people because the reaching forward action of the stroke can irritate back pain when the upper back and shoulder are part of the cause.

When a muscle is put under load the circulation is critical because blood and lymph carrying oxygen and nutrients, need to reach the muscle to enable it to work properly. Then carbon dioxide and other waste products need to be taken away efficiently so the muscle can keep working.

The higher the rate you work the muscles at or the heavier the load they are under, the more efficient that circulation needs to be so that the muscle doesn’t fail, fatigue and tighten up. When muscles are under the influence of gravity they have a lot more pressure on them, which is often too much for a dysfunctional core muscle that is playing a big role in your back pain or sciatica.

When you add a tilted or rotated pelvis to this mix there is even more pressure on the muscles and joints, restricting the circulation and contributing to the dysfunction of core muscles.

The gentle, non weight bearing, exercises take away a lot of this pressure and make it a lot easier for the dysfunctional muscles to be exercised without being overloaded.

Yoga is a good choice for some people, except I always recommend you don’t push any of the stretches, especially while you have acute pain going on. Even when you don’t, you still need to be careful you don’t overstretch and bring on pain. For others who are very tight and inflexible, Yoga can be the worst thing to do because the stretch just goes to the joint and connective tissue and irritates your pain.

The SLM Yoga, that is an important part of my self treatment program, uses a different and more effective technique to stretch to lengthen muscles and also works at putting balance back into the pelvis and spine at the same time. It doesn’t do a complete job on strengthening though and that is why I recommend combining it with gentle, non weight bearing exercises to take care of that important part.

Exercises such as Pilates which a lot of people with back pain turn to for strengthening are not on my list of recommendations as long as you have imbalances in your body because it doesn’t correct them first.

Rather Pilates will strengthen your body with the imbalances still present and that just exposes you to more pain when you stop the exercises, which most people eventually do. However if you correct the imbalances first, Pilates can be a great way to give your body an overall strength that will protect it from pain in the future.

When you have an ongoing or recurring back pain (including sciatica and most other back ‘conditions’) there are going to be a number of your structural muscles that are dysfunctional. What this means is they are not going to contract and relax and pump the blood, lymph and oxygen as they should when you apply a load or movement to them.

These dysfunctional muscles will cause other muscles that are working, to compensate for them whenever possible and this is how you develop muscle imbalances. If you do strength training with these imbalances you lock them into your body a lot stronger than they would normally be.

For this reason I always tell back pain and sciatica sufferers not to do weights, Pilates, running or pump class type workouts while they have muscles imbalances, a tilted pelvis or twisted spine, as most back pain and sciatica sufferers do.

The SLM approach is to first find those dysfunctional muscles in your body and get them working properly again so the body will rebalance, then bring in the strength training.

We do this at the intensive treatment and training conferences I run whereby we combine a therapy session each day with an SLM Yoga class and strengthening session in the pool. www.learnmassage.com.au/conferences.html

Many approaches you have probably already tried will focus on the strength work without rebalancing the muscles first. In some cases this might work for a while because strengthening a weak area that is in pain can protect it against the irritation and often cover up the imbalances through getting the body to compensate.

The price you pay is a loss of flexibility and the chance that the pain will come back with a vengeance at some later date, when the same approach may not help at all.

The problem with leaving these dysfunctional muscles as they are for too long is the restricted circulation affecting them causes a deterioration of the muscle tissue and a loss of strength. This only leads to more and sometimes even worse problems later, when you are older and less resilient.

So as you can see, making good choices on the exercises you do can have a huge bearing on whether you get over your back pain or sciatica quickly or not. If you need some further guidance you might consider the self treatment program for back pain and sciatica sufferers. This program will also give you effective ways of getting the muscles imbalances out of your body before you do the important strength work. www.backpain.com.au/help



© 2008 S.J.Lockhart Pty Ltd

spazzySI

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Re: May 2008 Healthletter: What are the Best Back Pain exercises.
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2008, 06:18:48 AM »
I've read that rebounding (bouncing on a trampoline) is very good for lymph stimulation. What are your views on gentle rebounding if one has a bad lower back ?

Steve Lockhart

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Re: May 2008 Healthletter: What are the Best Back Pain exercises.
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2008, 06:52:21 PM »
SpazzySI
It isn't going to help much if you have a tilted or rotated pelvis. Any bouncing exercise will irritate the back in that condition. If your pelvis is balanced it would probably be ok.

Regards
Steve

spazzySI

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Re: May 2008 Healthletter: What are the Best Back Pain exercises.
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2008, 06:19:34 AM »
OK, thanks. I'll wait for your Self Care program in that regard.

While I'm waiting, could you please answer the following : My problem is chronic lower back right side (about 25 years), which goes into full spasm every now and then. Recently, I've been doing chiro and massage and now acupuncture (after the most recent flare up).  Both the massage therapist and acupuncturist have found that both my QL muscles (left and right) are extremely sensitive (i jump at even slight pressure) . Is this a normal symptom of imbalance, and if so, will your program help ? ... please/thanks.

Steve Lockhart

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Re: May 2008 Healthletter: What are the Best Back Pain exercises.
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2008, 02:13:32 PM »
Muscles become very sensitive when they are under pressure for a prolonged period, so that is normal. The muscles that support the right side of your back are obviously in trouble and are not able to provide that support properly so the lower back is overloaded. There are exercises and techniques in the program you can use to get those muscles working properly again and once they do the pressure will come off your lower back.


Regards
Steve

 

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