December 14, 2008
In a previous blog we learned about the abdominal brace and the abdominal hollow as ways to stabilize (and not stabilize) our spines during different activities. This blog will take it one step further and teach you some lower back pain exercises that are supported by good spinal research. Before we do this, let’s address what proper spinal posture is. Take a look at the images below and decide which posture appears healthier for the lower back.
Posture For The Spine
If you guessed the posture on the left, you are correct. Although optimal posture in the lower back may slightly differ between individuals, the person on the left is displaying a normal amount of curvature or “lordosis” in the lower back. When you “flatten” out your back (as pictured on the right) you are flexing the spine and moving away from a natural anatomical position. Specifically, the flexed position on the right can be injurious for the lumbar intervertebral discs.
Back Pain Prevention
In order to protect the spine during different activities we recommend the combination of a neutral spine posture as pictured on the left with a muscular “brace” (as discussed in a previous Burlington Chiropractor blog). This strategy should be helpful during most activities; at the workplace, while doing chores at home and also while driving your car. Quite often we have patients come to our clinic here in Burlington with lower back pain related to disc dysfunction (also referred to as disc herniation, sciatica or slipped disc) that was perhaps exacerbated by their choice of exercises. So what are the best exercises for strengthening the spine? The following suggestions for strengthening the lower back have good scientific evidence supporting them…
Crunches for Back Pain
If you’re doing your sit-ups with both feet flat on the ground, your spinal position probably looks like the picture on the right. Unfortunately, this is common. Repeatedly flexing the lower back as you would with this type of sit-up can contribute to injury of the lumbar intervertebral disc. There is a misconception that exercising on an inflatable ball ensures that the spine is in a healthy position; not true. It is easy to adopt a flexed spine (as pictured on the right) while doing abdominal exercises on an unstable surface.
Best Back Pain Exercises
At our Burlington Chiropractic and Physiotherapy clinic we usually recommend to begin exercises on a stable surface, combining a neutral spine posture with a muscular brace. Once this approach is mastered an unstable surface can be introduced, provided the patient can continue to maintain the same form throughout their exercises.
Abdominal Strengthening for Back Pain
There are many factors involved in deciphering what exercise posture is correct for you. As a general rule however, we recommend maintaining a neutral spine as described above (on the left). To replace your traditional sit-up exercise, we recommend the modified curl-up. To perform the curl-up, start with your hands under your lower back to maintain a neutral spine while keeping one leg straight and one leg bent. While performing an abdominal brace, slightly lift the scapulae (shoulder blades) off the floor in a slow, gentle, pain-free manner.
Treatment for Back Pain
Exercises for back pain should not be painful. If you’re experiencing back pain or back discomfort it would be advised that you seek the assistance of a professional. Our Physiotherapists and our Chiropractors place a large emphasis on proper exercise prescription for those patients with and without back pain. We encourage you to learn more about our clinic by checking out the various pages of our website. To schedule an appointment call 905.220.7858 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
McGill S. Low Back Disorders. 2002 Human Kinetics.
McGill S. Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance 2nd Ed. 2006 Stuart McGill.