Spring Spine Training, Part 1: Every Day Exercise to Manage Back Pain

Exercising for back pain

Spring is almost here! It’s time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. That means playing golf, riding your bike, hiking, or getting some work done out in the yard. For some of us, however, there’s an issue that will keep you inside – back or neck pain. Being a little informed can have a big effect on your level of pain and help you manage it in the long term.

But My Back Only Hurts a Little

Low back pain is a reality for most of us at one point or another. The pain can range from being a minor nuisance to completely debilitating.  No two people are identical, however, and that certainly applies to how we experience pain. A muscle injury may send one patient to the emergency room with excruciating pain, while a patient with a herniated disc may experience only mild, intermittent discomfort.

The goal of any treatment – conservative treatment, interventional pain management, chiropractic adjustment, or physical therapy – is to relieve back pain long enough to let you resume normal activity. The last thing you may want to do after an injury is get up and move around, but with rest and treatment, this is often the very best thing you can do for long-term spine health. The right program of exercise and stretching can make a world of difference for your back pain.

What Kinds of Exercises Can I Do?

Most importantly, check with a doctor before beginning any home exercise or therapy program. It’s important that the exercises are performed correctly and that there’s no risk of further injury. Here are some important rules:

  1. If you experience sharp pain, stop!
  2. For dull aches or stiffness, stay within reasonable boundaries for your pain tolerance. Don’t push yourself too hard.
  3. Do these exercises at least once a day and do them whenever your back feels stiff or sore:

Here are some exercises that you can do throughout your day:

back-stretch-sitting-bend-overSitting Bend Overs

    1. Slowly bend forward from a seated position and attempt to reach the floor.
    2. Spread the knees as needed to allow for a full range of motion.
    3. Hold for 3-10 seconds or until it feels “loose.”
    4. Do the opposite—sit and arch your low back as far back as is comfortable. Repeat frequently for short hold-times—make it “fit” your time limitations/schedule!

Sitting Hip / Back Stretch

      1. Cross your legs.
      2. Raise the knee to the opposite shoulder.
      3. Arch the lower back until you feel an increase stretch in your buttocks.
      4. Twist your trunk to the side of the raised knee.
      5. Move your knee up/down and around to “feel” for the tightest “knots” and “work” them loose.
      6. Modify by bending forward.
      7. Repeat on the opposite side.

sitting trunk rotation

Sitting Trunk Rotations

      1. Slowly twist your shoulders and trunk to one side while keeping your knees straight.
      2. Reach back and pull for additional stretch, if comfortable.
      3. Hold for 3-10 seconds or until it feels “loose.”
      4. Repeat on the opposite side.

These are some activities that you can do every day to increase strength and mobility in your spine. Again, be sure you consult with a physician before beginning any home therapy routine. In the next article, we’ll discuss the McKenzie method and some additional home exercises to promote long-term spine health.