The other day I was going about my daily work routines when I was confronted with a question. It’s funny because, as word of this website travels, people are starting to ask me and my husband random health questions. Guess we’re becoming “experts” of sorts. Anyway, a lady I do business with periodically asked me the following:
“Every morning my back hurts. Any recommendations? Can exercise help?”
I thought about it for a minute. After all, it’s not uncommon that my back hurts too. And I know my husband has dealt with lower back pain for a few years since he threw out his back at work. I didn’t have a quick answer for her, but as usually, once I got home, a flood of answers came to mind.
Yes, exercise can help back pain. I’ve learned this through research, experience, and discussion. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
1. Lengthening and loosening hamstrings can relieve back pain. My mom is a physical therapist. One of her takes on back pain is that a lot of it is caused by tight hamstrings. She says that if our hamstrings are abnormally tight, they will actually pull down on your pelvis, which can put a strain on your lower vertebrae.
That being said, usually people’s answer to this issue is to try and stretch it out. And that’s great, but stretching alone isn’t actually going to fix it. In fact, static stretching alone could harm you. The key is to warm up your muscles and work them. After a workout is when you can use static stretches to really lengthen those muscles.
2. Work the core. Often pain in the lower back can be traced around the front of the bottom to a weak core. Such was the case with my husband when he hurt his back (or at least, that’s our hypothesis). At the time, he had recently transitioned from a skinny fat couch potato into an avid distance runner (thanks to the Couch to 5K plan). However, he still wasn’t strength training and thus had little to no core strength.
Your core is supposed to support your entire body. When it’s weak, other muscles have to compensate. Often it’s your lower back muscles. The result can be strained lower back muscles. Fix this issue by working your abs.
3. Fix your posture. Bad posture doesn’t just look bad. When your head and shoulders jut forward, it puts a strain on your lower back, throwing everything out of alignment. No one’s going to argue this. However, correcting years of bad posture is difficult, especially if you work at a desk all day.
You can try making a conscious effort to pull your chin in, shoulders back, and squeeze your tummy. But what you’ll probably find is that it hurts. After all, your muscles are weakened and aren’t used to sitting up straight. Here’s a good video for posture exercises for women:
Can exercise help back pain? You bet. Try it out and let me know if it helps yours!
Note: Remember, it’s always a good idea to speak to a doctor about chronic back pain, shooting pains, etc. Ask your doctor about exercise for back pain as well.
Photo courtesy David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net