Low Back Pain: What to Do?

Those at highest risk for low back pain are men and women between the ages of 30 and 55. Other risk factors include smoking and certain occupations (i.e. clerical, transportation). Weight and body type are not risk factors. However, depression and insomnia are strongly linked—either as predisposing or as a result.

So what can you do to help manage recurring or chronic low-back pain (LBP)?

First, you should get an exam from your doctor if you are experiencing LBP. Most LBP is mechanical, but not all, and there could be underlying causes that need medical treatment. Secondly, treatment will depend on the cause or the lack of one. Thirdly, even when you determine exercise will be the cornerstone of treatment, your program will need to be personalized. Exercise for LBP is not a one-size-fits-all program.

Your physical therapist will assign exercises that will improve strength and endurance, flexibility, and your aerobic capacity. Research has shown that the most successful interventions include programs that were individually designed, supervised, and included more than 20 hours overall. Stretching had the greatest impact on pain and strengthening provided functional improvements.

What to consider:

  1. Unlike regularly exercise for general fitness, LBP exercise should be performed daily.
  2. No pain, no gain is WRONG in this program.
  3. Cardiovascular exercise combined with specific back exercise is the most successful (It is believed cardiovascular/aerobic conditioning helps with LBP because it improves capillary development to the vertebral disks).
  4. Vertebral disks have different fluid level from morning to night, which changes the stress on them. Therefore, it’s best to do spine-motion exercise later in the day.
  5. There is no set of exercises ideal for all sufferers. Improvement in symptoms can take months, so patience and persistence are necessary.

If you’re experiencing LBP, see your doctor. You will likely be referred to a physical therapist, who will design a program using stretching, strengthening, and cardiovascular work for you to do with your trainer or at home.

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