This week, a new patient from Lee’s Summit asked me if physical therapy and exercise were really going to be safe, considering his extreme back pain. He was concerned that he would injure his back with the movements we were planning to do.
Initially, it would seem that exercising a painful body part would be a bad idea. Would that aggravate it more? Imagine trying a few exercises and waking up the next morning unable to bend over to pick up your kids or even walk around.
Let me tell you that this situation is extremely rare. I have only really had a few patients in my entire career get such a flareup from the easier exercises I prescribe at the start of their care, and there were other things going on in those cases that complicated their care.
See, the back is made up of many joints and joints are made for one thing… MOVEMENT! Movement lubricates the joints and brings blood flow to the area, which makes muscles and nerves happy. This reduces back pain. Most back pain is actually due to people not moving enough, actually. Think of it like the soreness you get on a long plane or car ride. The soreness isn’t telling you that you injured something. It’s telling you to MOVE!
For a sensitive back, the best thing is to start with low-impact movement. Walking is one of the best things you can do. If walking doesn’t get the pain to reduce after 5 minutes or so, try another low-impact activity. Yoga, swimming or pool walking, Tai Chi… try anything that gets you moving that you enjoy.
Stretching is also really helpful. Just don’t push it too hard and force things. You should feel a moderate pulling feeling, not pain. If you do get a little pain, though, that’s ok. It will likely reduce as you keep stretching.
Regularly walking, stretching, and exercising will make the back looser and stronger, also preventing pain from returning as bad, if it returns at all. Try to gradually build up to 5 days per week of 30 minutes of walking each day. Keep the pace up, but don’t push so hard that you can’t hold a conversation.
If you want more information on back pain and some of my top tips to help get back to doing the things you love without drugs, injections, or surgery, check out my free guide by clicking the button below.