Exercise and low back pain

What is the best exercise for low back pain? This is a question we get asked a lot here at Gloucester Chiropractors.

Research shows that there isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ exercise for low back pain, but if you are in pain now try and be as active as possible.

This could be walking around the house for 30 seconds before taking a break, or you might find you can tolerate cycling. Whatever it is, if you are moving, you are helping your back.

At Gloucester Chiropractors, in addition to hands on treatment, the majority of our patients will be given some home exercises or stretches at each appointment.

These are specific to you as an individual and the exercises we prescribe for your low back pain will depend on numerous factors including what aggravates or relieves your symptoms, your current level of strength and fitness and your goals, both short and long term.

We also advise patients to try and either maintain or gradually increase the amount of general exercise they get, as we know that regular exercise is one of the best ways to both manage and prevent low back pain.

A great start is to pick something (or preferably a few different things!) you enjoy and that are easy to fit into your current lifestyle, and to try to be as consistent as possible.

If you’re new to regular exercise or recovering from an injury, you may want to pick some lower impact options such as walking, swimming or Pilates and do them within your current tolerance levels initially in order to allow your body to adapt.

However, you’ll quickly find that you’re able to do more both in terms of frequency and impact as you become accustomed to your new routine.

This also doesn’t mean that higher impact exercise is off the table – HIIT workouts, weight training and other sports such as football, tennis, horse riding or triathlon are absolutely something you can do, you may just have to ease yourself into them slowly.

If you’re someone who already exercises regularly, it’s often a case of just modifying your current activities to adapt around any injury in the short term and then gradually working back up to your previous levels.

For example – if you usually do a 5km run, three times a week, you may initially start with doing a 2km route where you run for 2 minutes, walk for a minute, then work up to running 2km continuously, then 3km and continue until your back to your usual activity levels.

This can be applied to any type of exercise or sport, and your chiropractor will be able to advise you on a sensible, graded way to return to doing what you love.

Our chiropractors have a range of expertise in this area, with a numerous coaching, performance and rehabilitation qualifications held between them. They also have years of experience working with professional athletes through to people who think exercise is a dirty word.

That said, our chiropractors’ main role is to provide hands-on treatment. So don’t think that you will be sent away with a leaflet of exercises.

We understand that exercise on its own is often not the solution and that, no matter how much you may want to exercise, pain can sometimes be prohibitive.

It is good to think as types of exercise as a skill that we have to learn and practice to become better at.

For example, if you’ve always played football and decide you want to take up tennis, some things, such as quick changes of direction and cardiovascular fitness from running around the football pitch, will be skills you already have and can transfer between the two sports.

However, you may be less skilled in the hand-eye coordination required to hit the ball and make sure it lands where you want it to on the opposite side of the court.

It is these elements that we are ‘less skilled’ in that can lead to increased risk of injury if we try and do too much too soon.

This is why it’s important to start slow, and gradually and progressively increase the difficulty, intensity and frequency in order to allow your muscles, joints and nervous system to adapt to the new strains and stresses on them.

In summary, exercise in some form is almost essential for both the management and prevention of low back pain and is something your chiropractor can help you with in both the long and short term.

If you would like any advice on where to start, or how to take your exercise routine up a notch whilst preventing injury, Gloucester Chiropractors are here to help.