Is it OK To Exercise With Lower Back Pain?
As a private physiotherapy clinic, a large percentage of our clinical work at MLH Physio is treating lower back pain. Traditionally lower back pain (LBP) was associated with manual heavy work but nowadays in the modern world, our more sedentary work and lifestyles can be as much a contributory factor.
The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) Guidelines recommend prescriptive exercise for LBP and at MLH Physio we always guide our patients with the correct exercises to help their LBP.
We can generally categorise patients in our clinics with lower back pain into three groups and here we highlight some common mistakes when trying to exercise with LBP:
1. Acute LBP:
· Usually related to a lifting or bending injury, lifting too heavy in gym, doing something for too long or doing something you’re not used to like gardening or DIY, sleeping awkwardly
· It is easy to make that acute back pain worse by overdoing it; gym-goers might continue with squats or deadlifts and heavy loading, but this will probably aggravate your symptoms
· Running will most likely aggravate your back pain due to the impact
· Swimming is often advised as the buoyancy can help relieve some pain, but if you’re not a regular swimmer, then this can also worsen your back pain
2. Chronic LBP:
· Patients with long-term issues, poor exercise tolerance, poor posture or sedentary work and lifestyle
· This group of patients will get told they need to exercise to help their back pain, which is correct but running or high intensity exercise (HIIT) is definitely not the best place to start
· In most cases this will be down to poor core control or pelvic floor issues
· Advanced core work like planks or TRX suspension training can be too difficult initially and worsen symptoms, as can heavy lifting
As any research article on lower back pain will suggest, exercise is key part of lower back pain relief. At MLH Physio we can support all of these patients groups and provide the correct physiotherapy treatment and exercise to aid recovery and not worsen symptoms.
Alongside an exercise programme, hands-on physio can be really beneficial in the acute stage of back pain. We can offer a variety of treatments to help with your lower back pain relief; manual therapy and soft-tissue mobilisation help to alleviate symptoms or electrotherapy and acupuncture for pain relief. As experienced physiotherapists we can offer advice to patients on other ways to help reduce their pain, by using painkillers or heat and giving some postural advice like below.
What are the best physiotherapy exercises for lower back pain?
Each physio will have their ‘go to’ exercises for lower back pain, so we wanted to share our ideas and a few extras that may help you. Most patients with a sudden bout of back pain will be in moderate to severe pain and their back may even have “locked up”. So continuing to lift weights or run isn’t the best plan. For the first few days some gentle stretching is the best place to start.
Here are some examples of good stretches for your lower back that can help to alleviate some of your pain
Alongside physiotherapy treatment, these exercises should help relieve your back pain and a progressive exercise plan adding in some core exercises will help you return to full function.
As mentioned earlier, with the chronic LBP or post-pregnancy groups, it’s imperative those patients are given an appropriate workout plan for lower back pain. As physiotherapists, we have the knowledge and expertise to provide the correct guidance to these patients.
Those with chronic LBP should be given a graduated exercise program and get a safe workout plan for lower back pain. This should include some basic core exercises but also some form of cardio-vascular activity. Women suffering with LBP post-pregnancy should focus on Pilates-type exercises and core work, but it is vital that these are at the correct level/intensity for each patient. This can be done on an individual basis but then developed into a class setting.