Low back pain (LBP) affects almost every person at one point in their life. It can limit people’s daily routines and their ability to work and is, therefore, a commonly reported reason for lost workdays (1). LBP can be caused by different reasons such as sports injuries, arthritis, being overweight or physical deconditioning. Regular physical activity and specific exercise programs can help you to prevent low back pain by strengthening the muscle groups that support spinal stability.
Here some things to consider when embarking on an exercise program for low back pain prevention:
#1 Challenge your muscles but don’t stress your spine
A major goal that should be accomplished through LBP exercise prevention program is to strengthen the spinal stabilizers such as the Quadratus Lumborum, the Transverse Abdominus, and the Multifidus. On the other hand, it is important to exclude exercises that put too much compressive load on the spine. An example of an exercise that works your entire core while not loading your spine excessively is the bird dog.
#2 Never work through pain
If you exercise through pain, your body will work around it. This means you will activate different muscles that will substitute for the ones that are not working properly. Over time, this will lead to muscle imbalances and increase your risk to worsen your injury. If you feel pain during a specific exercise, give feedback to your healthcare provider and ask him to provide you with an alternative.
#3 Consistency is key
Muscles grow when they adapt to stress (i.e. an exercise). If you stop activating them, they will start to decondition again. Making regular physical activity a part of your life will help you to keep your muscle gains. Apart from continuing your exercise program, it is important to adjust it on a regular basis by progressing exercises or by adding new ones. This will help you to continuously improve your strength.
Try the following 3 exercises to prevent low back pain*
Begin on your hands and knees with your head and back in a straight position. Hands should be under your shoulders, hips directly above knees.
Activate core muscles. Raise one arm to shoulder level as opposite leg simultaneously lifts off the floor, extending to hip height. Pause momentarily. Return to start position and alternate sides. Maintain a straight spine position, not allowing your hips to twist or rotate. Do not hyper-extend low back when extending the leg. Repeat for prescribed repetitions and sets.
Begin lying on the floor, facing up. Bend knees so feet are firmly on the floor with arms extended to sides.
Activate core muscles. Lift hips off the floor to attain a bridge position with knees, hips, and shoulders in alignment. Slowly return to start position. Repeat for prescribed repetitions and sets.
Initially, you may develop some cramping in the back of your thigh. A simple hamstring stretch, before and after, may prevent this from occurring.
Lift shoulders off the floor, trying to maintain a neutral spine position without rounding the low back. Do not allow the head to move forward of shoulders during movement. Elbows can remain in contact with the floor during movement. Pause momentarily. Return to start position. Repeat for prescribed repetitions and sets.
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From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of disabilities and associated health conditions among adults-United States, 1999. JAMA. 2001;285(12):1571–1572.
*After getting clearance from your health care provider