Back pain and back injuries are common among people of all ages. They can occur due to various reasons such as improperly lifting heavy objects, poor posture, car accidents, and even general physical activity. Back pain can significantly affect one’s daily life, leaving many looking for options to relieve pain and work toward recovery. Exercise and stretching are effective methods to fight back pain and improve mobility.
Understanding Back Injuries
The human back is composed of an intricate network of bones, muscles, and other tissues that stretch from the neck down to the pelvis. Due to its complexity, the back is vulnerable to injury from a variety of different causes including bending, twisting, high impacts, low impacts, and more. According to Miller & Hine, back injuries are some of the most common personal injury claims. The lower back is the most prone to injuries and pain as it bears a majority of the weight of the upper body and is involved in a wide range of movements. Any strain or injury to this region can have a significant impact on one’s overall mobility and comfort.
There are two types of back pain:
Acute Back Pain
This is short-term back pain that generally lasts between a few days to a few weeks. With self care, it usually sorts itself out within a few days without any long-term loss of function.
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain lingers for 12 weeks or longer. Even with treatment to the initial injury, chronic back pain will still affect mobility.
Benefits of Exercise for Back Pain
A great way to relieve back pain is through exercise. The right routine will strengthen muscles, improve posture, and increase flexibility. Weak back and ab muscles can cause or worsen back pain. Stretching and strengthening these muscle groups is key toward reducing pain and preventing future injuries. Additionally, regular exercise will also help maintain a healthy weight which will reduce strain on the back.
Exercises to Relieve Back Pain
There are three main types of exercises that can help relieve back pain: aerobic exercises, strengthening exercises, and flexibility exercises.
Aerobic exercises, more commonly known as cardio, is any activity that accelerates heart rate and breathing. Those with back injuries can try walking, cycling, or swimming. Swimming is particularly great for pain as the water will support your body weight.
Squats, lunges, and planks will help build muscle and increase strength of back muscles. Added strength to the back and abs can help improve posture and reduce strain on the back.
Flexibility exercises are intended to increase range of motion in joints and muscles. They can help improve posture, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate back pain. Common flexibility exercises are yoga, pilates, and stretching. Some specific exercises are detailed in the stretching section.
Stretches for Back Pain
Stretching is an important aspect of any back pain relief routine. Here are some of the best stretches to reduce back pain:
The cat-cow stretch is a gentle but effective stretch that can help alleviate tension in the spine. Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. As you inhale, arch your back and lift your head and rear towards the ceiling. As you exhale, round your spine and tuck your chin to your chest.
This yoga pose is great for relieving tension in the lower back. Kneel on your hands and knees, lean forward while keeping your buttocks on your heels and rest your forehead on the floor. Position your arms so they’re next to your legs with your palms facing up. Take about 8 deep breaths to get the most from this stretch.
This gentle backbend helps strengthen your back muscles and is great for relieving pain on the lower back. While lying on your stomach with your elbows bent and close to your side, slowly lift your head, chest and shoulders. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the exercise and stop lifting where you feel comfortable. Release back down and exhale.
When In Doubt, See a Doctor
If your back pain is causing significant discomfort or your pain is lasting for more than a few weeks, it’s important to see a doctor. These exercises and stretches can only go so far in treating pain without a proper recovery plan.
Back pain can be frustrating and debilitating to deal with. Exercising and stretching can help mitigate the pain and prevent future injuries. By incorporating aerobics, strengthening, and flexibility exercises into your routine, you can help strengthen back muscles, improve posture, and reduce tension in your back.