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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Back Pain: Exercises to Help Healing


When it comes to back pain, your first thoughts may be to take over-the-counter pain medication and rest whenever possible. Two bad options. First, medication is only going to temporarily relieve the pain, if at all, and may be accompanied by various unpleasant side effects attributable to drugs. Second, rest may actually hurt more than help. While you're seeing your chiropractor, there are a few things you can do at home to help the healing process. Believe it or not, it's based on the simple principle of movement.

When you stop moving, everything tightens up, circulation slows down, and pain chemicals accumulate in your muscles and joints. It's like waking up after sleeping in a cold room on a lousy mattress with a draft. You need to move. Here are two simple exercises to get you started (discuss these with your doctor first):

Exercise #1: Backward Bending (extension of the lumbar spine). An exercise called the McKenzie extension is the first thing you should try if you have sciatica (pain running down your leg). If these exercises work, your pain will diminish and may centralize, which is a good thing. Centralize means your pain goes less far down your leg, and you may feel it closer to the spine. Bending backward may not feel good at first, but you should feel better immediately afterward. If you feel worse afterward or the pain goes farther down your leg, stop, as this is not the exercise for you.

How to Do It: Lie face-down on the floor, arms bent at your sides (sort of like a starting push-up posture). Straighten your arms up slowly, lifting your upper body off the floor as you do so. Your legs and feet should stay on the ground. Hold for 3-5 seconds, then slowly lower your upper body back down. Repeat 10 times, as often as once per hour

Exercise #2: Flexion Exercises (bringing the leg toward the chest). People with lower back pain can also feel better with various types of leg flexion, bringing the bent leg toward the chest, or doing contract-relax and then bringing the bent leg toward the chest. These people usually have sacroiliac joint problems. (The SI joints are located on either side of the spine in the lower back.)

How to Do It: Lie on your back with one leg bent and then other flat on the floor. Bring the bent leg up toward the chest. Wrap your arms around the leg and then try to lower it toward the floor for 3-5 seconds, resisting with your arms. Relax, and then pull the bent leg up farther toward the chest. Repeat the entire process three times.

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