Spinal Stabilization Can Help Fight Low Back Pain

Low back pain doesn’t have control your life. Read on to find out more.

Jay Cardiello - About.com - Spinal Stabilization can Help Fight Low Back Pain

Chances are you’re one of the 80% of adults who have experienced low back pain at least once in your life. Whether it’s a dull and constant ache, sharp and shooting pain, or radiating pain, back pain should not be ignored. Low back stability helps protect against low back pain and spinal stability helps protect against lumbar injuries. Even though back pain can go away on its own, a pain signal is important feedback from your brain that you should pay attention to.

Pushing your body through pain is never a good idea; instead, allow your body the much-needed time to rest and recover.

More About Back Pain

Back pain comes from many different causes including sprains and strains, disc degeneration, herniated or ruptured discs, sciatica, radiculopathy, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, traumatic injury, and skeletal irregularities. Most back pain is typically short lasting for few days to a few weeks. The majority usually results from a disruption to the spine, muscle, discs, or nerves, usually causing short term acute pain. Of the people who experience acute low back pain, about 20% develop chronic back pain which persists for over a year.

Back pain can be increasingly complex and finicky, where one rehabilitative exercise can improve one person’s symptoms while worsening the next person’s symptoms.  A lack of mobility and stability in the low back is a typical imbalance causing pain.

The exact balance varies between individuals. Some people need to increase mobility while others need to increase stability to achieve a healthy back. This stability/mobility balance can shift from the way you work out or how you age. Your back is a very complex and different structure than the rest of the joints in your body.

Your back is basically a flexible column with complex muscle and ligament supports. If you don’t maintain adequate stability around your spine, you can injure your back from something as simple as bending down to pick up a pen, or even sneezing.

We’ve all heard about the importance of strengthening your core, which includes the muscles, bones, and joints linking your upper and lower body. Numerous muscles in your back, abdomen, sides, pelvis, and buttocks make up your core. A strong, stable, and flexible core can help you bend twist, rotate, stand up straight, and move with greater ease and efficiency.

Studies show that simple exercises which strengthen the deep stabilizing muscles of the low back can strengthen and improve functional disability in many chronic low back pain patients. The deep lumbar stabilizing muscles include the transverse abdominis, lumbar multifudi, and internal obliques. These muscles must contract together to provide adequate spinal stability in order to prevent low back pain.

The Exercises

Here are 3 simple exercises you can do to fix your low back pain. They’re designed to improve the endurance and stability of your low back muscles while sparing your spine and challenging muscles in your torso. The desired goal is to help you maintain spinal stability while performing various activities. Since these exercises are intended to improve motor patterns around the spine to help with all sorts of activities, make sure to breathe in and out continuously to help train you to maintain constant activation throughout your abdominals and spinal stability in various scenarios. If you experience any pain during the exercise, stop immediately. The concept of “no pain no gain” does not hold true for low back pain.

Cat-Camel

The first exercise is the cat-camel. It’s performed on your hands and knees, so make sure to place your hands and knees at a comfortable distance apart. Concentrate on smoothly flexing and extending your spine throughout a slow and constant motion rather than pushing out at the end ranges. Slowly flex your spine upwards as pulling it up to the ceiling, flexing your neck forward to the floor as you round your entire spine as much as comfortably possible. Once you reach end range, switch directions and extend your spine by sinking it down towards the floor, extending your neck up to the ceiling as you arch your back as much as comfortably possible. Repeat this cat-camel cycle smoothly and slowly, five to eight times. It should help reduce resistance and friction in the spine.

Quadruped

The second exercise is called the quadruped. This is also which is also done on your hands and knees. While maintaining a neutral spine, simultaneously lift your opposite arm and leg until fully extended, them then slowly lower and repeat. Your palm should stay face down. It’s a challenge to balance on your opposite hand and knee which is planted on the floor, while avoiding any rocking type of motion in your midsection and spine. Start with a 5 to 8 repetitions on each side then switch.  Work up to more repetitions over time.

Plank and Side Bridge

The third exercise is the plank and side bridge. The side bridge trains the lateral muscles of the torso which are a great help to stabilize the low back. To plank, start by laying face down on the floor, curling your toes under, and placing your elbows directly under your shoulders. Push up off your elbows while maintaining a neutral neck and spine, activating your muscles to stay stable. Start off by holding the plank for a few seconds and work your way to a longer hold over time. To side bridge, start by lying on your side and putting your elbow on the floor a little lower than your shoulder. Place your top leg slightly in front of your bottom leg, lining the feet up heel to toe. Push up off the floor through your planted elbow and the side of your bottom foot, while pushing off the bottom leg, squeezing your midsection, and keeping a long spine. Your elbow should line up directly under your shoulder joint when you are in the bridge. Hold for 1 or 2 seconds then relax and switch sides. Work up to a longer hold time if you can tolerate it. A modified version of either exercise is to prop up to your knees instead of your feet, all while maintaining a neutral neck and spine.

Final Thoughts

If you’re experiencing any type of low back pain, make sure to talk to your doctor as it could stem from a more serious medical condition. In addition, seek the help of a licensed therapist or exercise professional experienced with recovery from your type of back pain. The most important thing you can do is to listen to your body at all times. If your brain sends out pain signals, pay attention to them, stop what you’re doing, and rest. Performing low back stability exercises daily are very helpful in keeping a healthy back. Be patient while you find the proper combination of mobility/stability-balance exercises for you. Once you get into the groove of a pain-free routine and follow it every day, you’ll feel the benefits!

Sources

Back Pain.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

Effect of Lumbar Stabilization and Dynamic Lumbar Strengthening Exercises in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain.  Cho, Y, Choi K, Choi, Y, Kim D, Kim H, Kim J, Lee K, Moon H.  U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb 2013.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

Enhancing Low-back Health Through Stabilization Exercise.  McGill SM.  ACE Fitness, Feb 2003.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.

Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.  National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 3 Nov 2015.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.

Strengthening Your Core:  Right and Wrong Ways to do Lunges, Squats, and Planks.  Dadoly A.  Harvard Health Publications, 29 June 2011.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.  

The Effects of Deep Abdominal Muscle Strengthening Exercises on Respiratory Function and Lumbar Stability.  Kim E, Lee H.  U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jun 2013.  Web.  30 Dec 2015.

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