Overcoming Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain. It’s common, it’s painful, it’s annoying, it can be debilitating but it can be overcome. With correct treatment and a bit of time you may find relief. Try these very simple solutions, give them a bit of time and see if improvements occur. One very important factor in back pain prevention is to always be aware of lifting correctly. Watch a toddler for this technique. Yep, a small child will teach you how to lift. They bend from the hips, keep their spine straight, put their weight into their heels, go into a squat and retrieve the toy they are after from the floor. There is no forward folding with straight legs, or rounding of the spine, or reaching out from the body to pick anything up, regardless of the weight of it. Improper lifting can be the reason something as light as a tissue can be the one thing that causes a bout of prolonged back pain.

No one had to teach the toddler how to lift. They do it naturally. As we get taller we think that it’s easier to not bend our knees to lift something. But the legs have large muscles, the back does not. Which do you think would be better to recruit when lifting an object of some weight? I know you picked the right answer. Try this simple exercise to strengthen muscles involved and help train the body to lift correctly at all times. Stand in front of a chair with your feet a little wider than hip width apart. Put your weight into your heels and push your hips back as though to sit down. Keep your spine straight with good alignment through your neck as you hover over the chair then stand straight again. Hold both arms wide apart over your head making sure your shoulders don’t scrunch up as you do these “chair squats”. This will cause you to engage the core muscles thus strengthening that area. Perform 10 to 15 repetitions. Use this same technique, although with arms down of course, to pick something up from the floor, especially if it is heavy.

Along with strengthening exercises, try a consistent stretching routine. Lie on the floor, one leg bent, foot flat. Reach across to the outer edge of the bent knee and slowly draw it over to the other side. Extend the other arm out from the shoulder, palm up. Take this rotation to “the edge”, where you feel it is comfortable. Take a deep breath in, relax, breathe out and slowly go beyond the edge of the stretch. Don’t go to a point of any pain but do challenge the range somewhat, using your breath to relax and release. Repeat on the other side. A combination stretch and strengthening exercise is a “mini press up” for back extension. Start by lying on your stomach, hands on the floor at, or a bit behind, the shoulders. Relax and don’t use the legs. Slowly begin to press the upper body up. Be sure to keep the shoulders away from the ears and the elbows tucked into the ribs. Engage the upper back muscles as you lift the chest. Keep the front of the hips on the floor and lift your upper body as high as is comfortable. Without moving them, pull the hands toward the elbows. This will engage and strengthen the upper back. Be aware of how this extension of the back feels. Only go as far as what is comfortable. Slowly perform several repetitions. If pain worsens with repetition, stop.

One of the best things you can do to combat back pain is walking. Prolonged sitting is detrimental. As long as you are not in extreme back pain, get up and go for a brisk walk. Combine a daily walk or two with strengthening and stretching exercises and see your pack pain reduced. Hire a personal trainer with a kinesiology background to assess your technique. Always seek professional advice from a physiotherapist, reputable chiropractor or medical doctor if your back pain is severe or debilitating. Many back “issues” can be treated without extreme measures. Give an exercise plan a try and keep your back fit.

Holly Vanderzwet, B.P.E.