Be Wise with Exercise
A good rule of thumb when it comes to exercise is, if it hurts, stop doing it. If a twist or forward bend makes things worse, you need to stop. It doesn’t mean you can’t do these motions, just hold off it until your back lets you do it.
Easy Does It
Most doctors will tell you, some rest is good, but you shouldn’t lie on your back for days on end. Movement is necessary if you want to heal, careful movement that is. Walking is an excellent start, as are stretches.
Your spine has the ability to move in four directions: forward, back, side to side, and rotating. You can do these movements in a chair, seated on the floor, or standing. At the start, keep your range of motion small and increase it as your body allows. Once again, move slowly and, if you have pain, stop.
Get in the Water
Performing exercises in a pool is a very good way to get back in action. Swimming is an excellent exercise option for your back. The water assists your body and provides you resistance. This buoyancy results in your joints bearing less weight. You can start by just walking in the shallow area of the pool, do the dog paddle, or by taking a water-aerobics class. If you’ve never exercised in a pool before, you’ll be astonished by how difficult the workout can be. It’s important to work at your own pace. But keep in mind that muscular effort is good; pain is not.
With a Little Help from Props
Wouldn’t everything be great if everybody had a massage therapist on call to alleviate our daily muscle aches? Unfortunately that isn’t feasible; instead, we can do a lot to massage out our own kinks. There are handy little gadgets available to help us exercise and self-massage.
Cylindrical foam rollers are one of the most helpful inventions in relation to back pain, in recent times. Physical therapists often use them with their patients who suffer from back pain. They’re cheap (roughly $30) and widely available on the Internet. When you first try one, you’ll wonder how you managed without it all these years.
Composed of dense foam, these rollers are available in various sizes and densities. You’ll probably want the longer version; this is three feet long with a six-inch circumference. White is the typical density—meaning it is not too hard. The grey and blue ones are typically harder and can be too hard for delicate muscles. You can use a foam roller to stretch and massage the back and leg muscles. Tight leg muscles can result in lower back pain. Exercises on a foam roller contain those which require you to balance, developing your core muscles to build better support for your spine. Talk with a personal trainer or a physical therapist that specializes in back rehab to find out how to use a foam roller effectively. There are some illustrated books and DVDs can also help guide you.
You can also find handheld massage tools; some have the ability to vibrate whilst others can oscillate in order to thump out your muscles. The majority are electronic devices, but some, including the Thera Cane, allow you to easily press on knotted muscles with a specially shaped cane which reaches your back. Handheld devices can involve some effort. This doesn’t mean they aren’t effective or helpful, but a device which works without you having to move it (for instance, lying on a roller) is the ultimate in self-massage, as it means you can relax more.
Objects which require you to lie on are effective passive muscle relief. A common tennis ball can do the job. Place it on the floor and lie on it situated underneath a sore muscle. Maintaining bent knees with your feet on the floor (as a pose to sitting with your legs straight out) sets less pressure on the ball. Spiky rubber balls are also available, some of which you can even heat to give you an extra special touch. A wooden object known as a Ma Roller massages the muscles down both sides of the spine simultaneously. Chair massagers are also great, although they can be pricey. If you were to go all out and purchase a fully loaded, antigravity, body-contouring chair, it could set you back several grand. If this isn’t feasible, there are heating pads with vibrating settings that attach to conventional chairs and cost far less.
An excellent way to decrease the stress of back pain is via meditation. Most people are more successful with the help of an experienced other. Guided meditations will help you clear the constant chatter in your head. The human mind is continuously jumping from one thought to another, often considering the past or worrying about the future. Sometimes we don’t even appreciate how much static we live with until we attempt to quieten our minds. Buddhists refer to this constant chatter as “monkey mind.”
When taking part in guided meditation, our minds have something else to focus on. The guidance can range from basic breathing techniques, body-oriented work which asks us to focus and relax one part of the body at a time, or repetition of inspirational words. Select whichever is best for you. The key is to refocus the mind and relax the body. You’ll be impressed by how much better you can feel in as little as five minutes. You can find out more information on meditation and breathing techniques here.
There are different sources for guided meditations. Some provide free mini-sessions on the web, others include books, DVDs, and CDs. The most revered meditation educators include Thich Nhat Hanh, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, and Sally Kempton.
Chances are you’ve seen power weightlifters lift more than 200 pounds above their heads whilst wearing these large belts around their waist. The function of the belts is to steady the spine. And power lifters are recommended to use them, but what about the rest of us?
There is some disagreement around whether or not these belts should be worn in day to day life. Some experts suggest that it gives patients a false sense of security. They lift far heavier than they are actually able to, resulting in a greater potential for back injury. Supporters claim the belt helps remind people to stimulate their abdominal muscles prior to lifting.
We believe that it’s best to you focus on strengthening your core muscles and use correct lifting technique (whilst lifting an object from the floor, bend your knees, flex your abdominals, then lift the object, keeping it as close to your body as possible). If a back brace promotes good form when lifting, so be it. One very good element of a back brace is that it stops you from rotating, which can lower the potential for a back injury while lifting.
We’ve put postural aids in the same group as back braces. They can be beneficial if they prompt you to use the correct muscles, but they won’t help you in the long run if you become reliant on them for support.
For people who work with computers every day, it can be advantageous to wear a shoulder brace from time to time to encourage the shoulders and spine to stay in the correct position. You can find lots of different postural aids online. Numerous companies permit the use of large inflatable exercise ball at work stations. Sitting on these balls whilst working promotes the use of core muscles automatically. It’s not feasible for most people to sit on one all day, we recommend alternating from office chair to ball.
Over time we lose water content in our discs, this can increase the risk of back pain due to degeneration of the joints. Some people find relief through inversion therapy. This treatment can conducted at home using inversion tables. You don’t have to be totally upside down; sometimes just having your feet a few degrees higher than your head will help stretch your spine. Studies have shown that inversion therapy can help rehydrate the discs. It can definitely help relieve pain, but sometimes the effects are reversed as soon as you stand or sit upright.