Chronic Lower back pain Exercises
Most physical therapy programs that are designed to treat low back pain and some radicular pain (pain radiating down the leg) will include a combination of the following types of exercise:
Stretching. Proper stretching of the muscles along with active exercise will help maintain normal range of motion and provide relief for muscles that are often suffering disuse atrophy (shrinking muscles from lack of use) or in spasm from inappropriate posture or nerve irritation. For many patients it is best to follow a stretching routine that has been individually designed for them by a physical therapist or a spine physician. As a general rule, low back pain patients should focus on stretching the lower back muscles, abdominal muscles, hips, and legs. The patient should never bounce during stretching, and all stretches should be slow and gradual.
Dynamic stabilization exercises. These exercises involve the use of a variety of exercises and may include use of exercise balls, balancing machines or specific stabilizing exercises. The point of dynamic stabilization exercise is to strengthen the secondary muscles of the spine and help support the spine through various ranges of motion.
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Core strengthening exercises. These are specific exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles and low back muscles (erector spinae) to provide the aforementioned 'belt of muscle' around the spine. These exercises typically include:
- Specific abdominal strengthening, such as sit-ups, crunches, abdominal machines, and leg raises.
- Low back exercises (hyperextensions), which can be performed on machines or by simply lying on the stomach and slowly raising the chest off the ground. This exercise utilizes the lower back muscles to 'hyperextend' the spine.
- 'Good-mornings' are also an exercise to strengthen the lower back muscles. This exercise requires the patient to stand with legs straight and shoulder width apart, with a broom-stick or weighted bar across the shoulders. The patient then slowly bends forward until the face is parallel to the floor and then raises back up. Very similar to just bending to touch the toes except there is weight across the shoulders.
Some physical therapy centers may also provide aquatic (water) physical therapy. Water supports the body and minimizes the effect of gravity, making it easier for patients to start an exercise program. Aquatic therapy can be very helpful for elderly patients and disabled patients who may not have the strength to do some of the exercises outside the aquatic pool.