Stretch for Bad Lower back
Unfortunately, most people end up dealing with some form of back pain during their lifetimes. Low back pain is really common, and it can be caused by a wide range of factors. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, this medical condition already costs the country billions each year in treatment costs, lost work productivity, and disability payments.
Most people struggling with these symptoms believe that doing some routine stretching is one of the best ways to treat their lower back pain. This certainly seems like the logical way to go, but new back pain research has suggested that this may not always be beneficial for this condition. If a person’s low back pain is the result of an injury to the intervertebral disc, then stretching could actually exacerbate their pain.
The Intervertebral Disc and Inflamed Spinal Nerves
The intervertebral disc actually creates the space in between the bony vertebrae in the back, and it acts as a shock absorbing structure. Sometimes when this disc takes damage, it can cause the spinal nerve root to become inflamed leading to additional pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the lower back (sciatica). Health care experts often refer to these symptoms as an inflammation of a specific spinal nerve root or radiculopathy.
At the onset of low back pain, people may begin to stretch out the hamstring muscles in the back of the thighs. When the pain is the result of a simple mechanical complication, then these stretches are actually quite beneficial for the pain. However, if the pain running down the back of legs is caused by an inflamed nerve (radiculopathy), this stretching could be a bad idea.
Hamstring Stretching Can Exacerbate Your Lower Back Pain
If you do have low back pain that is caused by inflamed nerve roots, then your pain will only increase if you perform a straight leg maneuver. Why is that happening? The pain is worsening because the inflamed nerve is being stretched during this maneuver. So, when you are stretching out your hamstring muscles, this action is simultaneously stretching those nerve roots. This can lead to lower back pain that does not subside within a reasonable amount of time.
When provided with these details, health experts will recommend that their patient discontinue the hamstring stretching for at least the next two months in the hopes that they will not further aggravate the inflamed nerve roots. In most cases, patients report a noticeable improvement in their back pain symptoms within a week of stopping these stretches. Once they no longer are experiencing pain that is radiating down their back and legs, then they can resume these routine stretches if they so desire.
Some Stretching Routines Can Be Done
Now, this research does not mean that back pain patients must refrain from all forms of stretching in this scenario. In fact, pulling the knees up to the chest and shoulders while lying down is a stretch that can still be practiced even during a radiculopathy episode. Patients can also continue to stretch out their quadriceps, unless they have experienced further injury in the mid to upper segment of the lower back. In those cases, then stretching out your quads will also stretch the inflamed nerves and exacerbate your back pain symptoms. Please don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you have started to feel worse after stretching.