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Exercises to help with back pain

(Photo: Pixabay)
AMMAN — Back pain is a prevalent global issue. Around 60–70 percent of people will experience back pain, most frequently lower back pain, during their lifetime. Most experience this back pain in early adulthood. Recently there has been an increase in back pain amongst children and adolescents. اضافة اعلان
For mild cases, methods to alleviate back pain include over-the-counter painkillers such as Panadol (Paracetamol) or Nopain (Naproxen).

For more severe cases, especially cases where the pain radiates down to the legs, epidural corticosteroid injections are used for 3 months. While these methods help treat pain as a symptom of back pain, unfortunately, they do not fix the cause. Alternative approaches to treating back pain from the root cause focus on physical therapy, rehabilitation, and spinal manipulation.

Types of back pain

The spine is a complex series of joints packed full of nerve endings. It's responsible for carrying a large percentage of the body's weight, especially when standing or sitting upright. Due to its plethora of functions, the spine faces an increased threat of possible issues. 

Mechanical pain is the most common type of lower back pain; it results from problems involving the muscles, ligaments, joints, or bones in or around the spine. Typically, the pain is contained to the lower back and buttocks, but it could affect the top of the legs. This type of pain is primarily influenced by the amount of weight and strain that your back absorbs during static and active movements.

Muscle strains and ligament sprains are the most common injuries which cause this pain. Strains are the damage inflicted on muscles due to overstretching and tears. Sprains occur in the ligaments. Common causes for strains and sprains include lifting heavy objects, sudden movements that put stress on the back, and long-term poor posture. In addition, the pain can be triggered by specific actions.

Who's at risk

The cause of lower back pain, especially mechanical pain, is multifactorial. Back pain can come without warning and may be of no fault of your own. Despite this, some factors will put you at greater risk for developing back pain. When referring to mechanical back pain, risk factors include age, pain is more common in adults, lack of exercise, pain can happen as a result of underdeveloped, weakened, or unused muscles in the back or abdomen, excess weight, the spine is placed under more stress when carrying extra weight, improper lifting techniques, pain is caused when individuals lift with the back instead of the legs, and finally, psychological conditions, evidence suggests that individuals with depression and anxiety are at greater risk of developing back pain.

Exercises that can help alleviate back pain

All forms of exercise have been shown to help in relieving back pain. By strengthening the muscles that support the spine, pressure will be alleviated of the spine. Exercise can also help reduce stiffness and improve mobility, allowing for better blood circulation and nutrients throughout the body, including the spine. Furthermore, exercise causes the release of a hormone called endorphins, which improves mood and relieves depressive symptoms.

There are specific exercises designed to improve back pain. Before discussing these exercises, it is essential to note that individuals should consult with their doctors before performing any activities to ensure that they are done safely and correctly. Exercising after spinal surgery or if you have a serious spinal condition can increase the risk of pain. Stop the exercise immediately if you begin to feel increasing pain, tingling, or numbness in one or both legs. When it comes to back pain, powering through exercises and ignoring pain can cause serious injury.

One of the most popular exercise methods is the McKenzie method which consists of 8 steps.

Step 1: Laying on your stomach

The purpose is to reduce pressure on the lower back while also realigning the spine. First, lie down flat on your stomach with your arms to your side. Then, you can either face down or turn your face to the side. Hold this position for 2-3 minutes and repeat up to 8 times a day.

Step 2: Lying on a pillow

The second step is meant to support the lower back. Follow the same technique as step 1 but add a pillow under your stomach and hips. Hold for 2-3 and repeat up to 8 times a day.

Step 3: Lying on your elbows

The purpose of step 3 is to help restore the natural curve to your lower back. First, start by lying on your stomach and prop yourself on your elbows with your palms flat against the ground. Make sure your shoulders are in line with your elbows, forming a 90-degree angle. Hold for 2-3 minutes and repeat up to 8 times a day.

Step 4: Prone press-ups
This step helps to restore the natural curve of the spine further. While lying down on your stomach, place your hands under your shoulders. Slowly begin to straighten out your elbows and lift your upper body. Hold the extended position for 2 seconds and slowly return to the starting position — complete 10 repetitions up to 8 times a day.

Step 5: Standing Extensions
This step helps improve backward mobility of the spine, especially in the lower back. Start by standing straight up and place your hands along the length of your lower back. Then, with the support of your hands and keeping your knees straight, slowly lean back as far as possible and hold for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position — complete 10 repetitions and repeat up to 8 times a day.

Step 6: Lying flexion
This is the first step in restoring forward mobility in the lower back and helps regain the overall range of motion. For this step, make sure to be lying on a firm, comfortable mat but not too hard. To start, lie down on your back with your feet flat on the ground and hip-width apart.
Then, while keeping your shoulders and tailbone against the ground, slowly bring your knees to your chest using your arms. Hold this position for 2 seconds and slowly return to the starting position — complete 6 repetitions and repeat up to 4 times a day.

Step 7: Sitting flexion
This is an intermediate version of step 6 and further restores mobility. Start by sitting on the edge on a seat with your back straight and feet a little more than shoulder-width apart, flat on the floor.
Next, reach forward and try to place your hands flat on the floor in between your feet. Hold for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position — complete 6 repetitions up to 4 times a day.

Step 8: Standing flexion
This is the last and most advanced step to restoring forward mobility. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly bend forwards at the hip while trying to keep your knees straight.
Next, try to reach the floor and place your hands flat. This may not be possible at first, but your flexibility and range of motion will improve over time. Hold for 2 seconds and slowly return to the starting position — complete 6 repetitions up to 2 times a day.

Finding help in Jordan

Back pain is a severe burden to quality of life. These exercises may improve some of the symptoms or causes of back pain, but they might not heal the cause.
To get help, you can visit the Khan Kinetic Treatment Orthopedic Spine Center located in Sweileh, Amman. The center aims to provide treatment and diagnostics for back pain. They use highly sophisticated technology and non-invasive procedures to realign the spine and help regenerate tissue painlessly.

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