Regular exercise is an important component of any balanced, healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, for many people chronic lower back pain makes exercise-or just about any other type of activity-painful and sometimes impossible.
Lower back pain affects each of us at some point in our lives and is one of the leading causes for physician visits. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), approximately six million Americans each year see their physician because of lower back pain, and nearly 500,000 require hospitalization.
However, as medical professionals learn more about the causes and effects of chronic back pain, their approaches to treatment are changing. For example, fewer doctors prescribe bed rest. Not only can that course of treatment result in stiff or weakened muscles, but physical inactivity can lead to more serious long-term problems, such as weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. Today’s patients have a range of treatment options, with most encouraging at least some type of physical activity.
Experts say that moderate exercise, three to five times per week, will not only improve overall fitness but will also decrease the likelihood of further back injury. Here are a few tips from the North American Spine Society and The Physician and Sportsmedicine Journal to help get you back to a regular exercise regimen:
- Use physician-approved stretches to loosen the lower and upper back and related muscles, including hamstrings and quadriceps.
- Strengthen muscles that support the back and work to improve the back’s flexibility.
- Do exercise with proper form to maximize benefits and minimize strain.
- When lower back pain interferes with daily activities and exercise, patients should consult a physician to learn more about their condition and treatment options.