When you experience a temporary low back pain at the first time, you can expect it to go away by itself in few days. But you should not pass this opportunity to take care of it. Low back pain is a sign that you and your body are not in balance. Occasional back ache after standing longer periods of time or while mall shopping, morning stiffness and discomfort while sleeping are often first signs of tissue overload.
In our back intervertebral discs are functioning as shock absorbers and as joints. The discs between vertebras allow us to bend over and perform other movements. Stability of the joints during the movements is maintained by discs, bony structures, ligaments, and muscles. Disturbed balance between movement and stability is often the mechanical reason for tissue overloading and pain.
In many cases the aging of the intervertebral disc is an underlying change resulting in decreased stability. Disc is losing its height and its ability to stabilize. Ligaments are overstretched due to increased shearing movement and gradually loosing they elasticity. The function of receptors imbedded in ligaments is disturbed making deep muscles close to spine to “fall in sleep”: small uncontrolled movements are able to take place between vertebras without adequate stability.
Muscles are reacting to this deep tissue irritation creating postural changes and alternations to movement patterns. The typical imbalance is developed between the following pairs of muscles:
- weak buttock muscles and short hip flexors
- weak abdominal muscles and short back muscles
The vicious circle is set up. To break this circle and get rid of the occasional pain and to prevent further problems we need to restore the functional balance. We can’t do much to the underlying changes in the disc but we can improve stability by working on muscles. We need to stretch the shortened muscles and activate, reeducate and strengthen the weakened ones. The following simple exercises are a good beginning restoring balance of your lower back area.
- Abdominal activation / pelvic tilt
Lie down on the floor on your back, small towel folded under your low back. Keep your knees and hips bend and push your lower back down towards the floor contracting your belly muscles. If pain free, repeat it 20 to 25 times. You may do three sets of 25 repetitions.
- Hip flexors stretch
Stand on your right knee, pillow under the knee, left foot on the floor in front you hip and knee in 90 degrees of flexion. Hold on a table or chair for balance with your hand. Tighten up your abdominals as you did with the first exercise tilting the pelvis up. Do not bend backward. You should feel a stretch in front of your hip and upper thigh and absolutely no pain in the back. If pain free, maintain the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat three times on both sides.
- Muscle reeducation
Lying on your back on the floor small towel under your back, hips and knees bend. Push your lower back down to the floor. Maintain the position while moving one straight arm at a time up from your side to overhead to the side of your ear and back down. Do not let your back move up from the floor. This should not provoke any pain in your back. If you experience any pain in your shoulders, use only pain free range of the motion. You may add the second way to do this same exercise by moving your both arms up and down together. Repeat in both ways 25-50 times. Remember to breath.
These exercises should be done two to three times a day, but at least once every morning.
If your have any symptoms radiating down to your leg(s) or if you have continuing low back symptoms, you should see your physician and get into Physical Therapy instead of trying to take care of your back problem by your-self.
ORTHOSPORT PHYSICAL THERAPY CENTER SPECIALIZES IN SPINAL PROBLEMS INCLUDING LOW BACK PAIN AND “PINCHED NERVE”.