Back Pain and Exercise

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By Dr. Ron Nusbaum
Published on September 21, 2012


A weak or injured spine can present a multitude of effects ranging from mild pain to system and organ malfunction. Many primary painful conditions – degenerative disc disease, bulging or herniated discs, sciatica – arise from a weakened spine. These conditions can be avoided, and effects can be mitigated, when the spine and muscles supporting it are strong. Secondary conditions – compromised immune system, weak bladder, poor digestive system, feeling of numbness or tingling in the limbs, for example – arise from nerves that are compromised. This happens when there is interference at the point where the nerves branch out from the spine. Interference typically comes in the form of damaged or injured spinal discs, which are known to put undue pressure on nerves, causing pain and other symptoms.

There are easy and accessible ways to keep your spine healthy. The key is to be strong, stay limber and stand tall. The focus must be on establishing and maintaining a strong core. The core refers to the abdominal and lower back muscles that connect to your spine and pelvis.

A strong spine is directly related to good health, for a number of reasons.

  • Your spine supports your entire body
  • It allows for movement, twisting and flexibility
  • The spine absorbs stressful impacts and abrupt torsion
  • The spine is the channel through which your nervous system efficiently branches out to all parts of your body – organs, systems, muscles

Strength through exercise

Keep your spine healthy through proper exercise. Build and maintain strong muscles around your lower back, and through your abdominal muscles, which help to support and stabilize your spine.

The North American Spine Society recommends core strengthening exercise for people with mild low back pain to improve posture, ease symptoms, and prevent future back pain.

A program like Pilates is great for building core strength. It requires no more equipment than a mat. If you can’t join a class, then do schedule a few initial sessions with a certified Pilates instructor, to ensure you are performing the workout properly.

Flexibility through Movement

When you are more limber, you are less likely to experience injury to your spine due unexpected stress or torsion. Back-friendly stretches, yoga, and dance (think ballet, with slow, fluid movement) help to keep the spine flexible while building strength.

These activities require only a mat or chair. In the beginning, take a few classes with a certified instructor to ensure you are performing poses properly for maximum benefit.

Remember, work within the range of your current level of fitness. Exercise and stretching should be even and controlled. And keep in mind, not every exercise is right for you. Especially if you have back pain, or if your pain is exacerbated by exercise, you must check with your doctor before embarking on any program.