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WHICH IS THE SINGLE BEST EXERCISE FOR LOWER BACK PAIN?

Posted by in Lower Back pain and your core |

If I was asked which the best exercise for lower back pain is and I could only choose one which would it be.

I am sure that if you are reading this you probably are suffering from lower back pain or at least have at some point been suffering from back ache. Let’s face it, haven’t we all at some stage.

One of the biggest problems for back pain sufferers is that if you surf the net there are literally thousands of people claiming that they have miraculous exercises to cure your back pain. However there is only one problem. If you don’t know what to do you could make your problem worse, much worse.

Let’s take a lower back L5-S1 disc bulge as an example. It’s the most commonly affected disc because it’s at the end of the spine and has the most amount of stress put on it. It’s also the area where the lumbar curve changes from a lordosis to a kyphosis where it meets the sacrum. This area of changing curves is another reason that the stresses are greater at this region. The sciatic nerve exits at this region and this is why sciatica is most common as far as lumbar pinched nerves are concerned. The majority of disc bulges in this region tend to be posterior disc bulges, in other words the bulge is being pushed from the front of the spine to the back (away from the navel). Therefore if you were to do exercises that exacerbate it such as flexion exercises you could push the disc bulge further in the wrong direction making your problem worse. In fact, I had a client see me this morning who had been doing yoga for the past 6 months and every time she did forward bending yoga postures she made her back worse, so much so that she has given up yoga altogether. I would surmise that she has a posterior disc problem or at very least ligament problems that are constantly being overstretched doing these exercises. If you have read my other posts you will know that bringing knees to your chest, touching toes and other lumbar spine flexion exercises can be very damaging to the lumbar spine and should be avoided!

Another problem stretch for lumbar disc problems is the lumbar torsion stretch. Many of you would be aware of this one too. It’s where you lay on your back and pull one leg across your body with the opposite am outstretched. This too can make certain disc bulges worse!

Likewise if your problem was from spinal stenosis you could do extension exercises and aggravate your pain by doing these.

So the stretch I would do is one that is safe, both stretches and strengthens common weak and tight muscles and will ease back pain. The stretch I choose is to loosen our lower back muscles that are contracted chronically all day every day and are major contributors to back pain in most cases. The majority of us sit all day at our desks, in our cars or at the computers and chronically shorten a muscle called the illiopsoas. When this is tight it can pull on our lower backs and make sleeping on our backs and stomachs, sitting and even standing painful. If I was on a desert island and could only do one stretch it would be to loosen the illiopsoas muscles. One of the major problems when this muscle is too tight is that it restricts our amount of hip extension. This is very important because when we don’t have enough hip extension which we need to walk and do our daily tasks, our body compensates and finds extension elsewhere. This happens at the lumbar spine which is not good! If your hip can’t extend like it should your lower back does the compensating which means you now have hips that are to tight and a back that is getting too much movement when it should be doing its role as a stabiliser. It is imperative that this be turned around because it will and does lead commonly to back pain. What you want is to have the hips more mobile by doing the lunge stretch and your back staying in its more neutral position with reduced movement. Your back needs to be stabile not moving around all over the place to compensate for other tight and poorly performing muscle groups. Therefore the lunge stretch is the best single back exercise if you had to do just one! It also makes your body work hard to balance whilst you do it so it hasn’t the added bonus of strengthening certain other integral muscle groups as well.

I must add that it is very often taught poorly and not correctly. To be effective it must be done properly otherwise you can aggravate your back by doing it.

I have a full explanation on how to do the lunge stretch both properly and safely. So for those of you who don’t have time to do your back exercises here is one that you can do several times a days you stand up from your computer and it will help enormously.

One final word- remember to sit properly, to lift correctly, to get up and down from your chairs correctly and your back will be very happy indeed!