By Mary Williams
President/CEO, Corporate Health Alliance, LLC
If you were to Google “back pain”, you’d likely come across many articles on the subject of exercise and back pain. You would read that exercise is important to prevent and recover from back pain, and learn about specific exercise programs designed to relieve it. You’d also see posts and articles touting that yoga, swimming, tennis, running, and many other forms of exercise are either great or not so great for back pain.
Unfortunately, as with many reports on this topic, reliance on specific exercise programs is misplaced, and it’s important to understand the underlying mechanism and reasoning behind the general concept of the importance of movement for creating and maintaining a healthy back.
The human body is designed to move regularly, with good postural mechanics, in order to maintain a healthy musculoskeletal system. Your muscles need to regularly contract and relax to maintain their health and elasticity, and to be ready when called upon in your regular everyday activities.
Have you ever heard of a person who, for example, bent over to pick something up and their back “went out”? What actually happened is their muscles were not regularly used enough (they were generally inactive), and became inelastic and either lengthened or shortened due to postural imbalance, and also likely chronically contracted due to life stressors. When they bent over, the muscle was ill prepared for the task and responded by vigorously tightening in a protective response. And tight muscles hurt.
If this same person had instead regularly participated in daily physical activity, with good mechanics, and dealt with life’s stressors in a healthy manner, they would be far less likely to experience the pain of their back “going out”.
While exercise programs are great – and so is yoga, swimming, running, gym workouts, golf, etc. – it’s important for us all to move regularly, daily if possible, using good mechanics. A 30-minute walk, 3-5 times a week, can do as much or more than any other preventative approach for reducing your risk of chronic back pain.
In addition, in contrast to surgery, the overprescribed opoids, and other pain medications currently in use, exercise has no negative side effects and many, many benefits, including:
• Improved overall strength
• Improved flexibility
• Improved balance
• Help maintain weight loss and improving body composition
• Improved mood, self-esteem, and energy
• Improved posture if done with balanced mechanics
• Reduced abdominal fat
• Reduced depression
• Improved cardiovascular health
• Improved blood flow to muscles, including back muscles, which increases oxygen and nutrient delivery to tissues and cells while helping to remove waste products
It is important to participate in an activity that you enjoy, because it’s far more important to regularly engage in some form of movement than it is to participate in any specific exercise or program. You’re much likely to regularly exercise, in the long run, if you find something you enjoy.
Ask yourself, what type of physical activity do you enjoy doing the most? What time of day works best for you? Do you prefer to exercise with a partner? A group? Or, do you prefer to exercise alone? Think about the ideal conditions that would most likely lead to the end result of you having movement in your weekly routine on a regular basis.
If you are regularly active during your daily life, that may be enough physical activity for you to prevent back pain, and you can supplement with a daily walk around your neighborhood or another activity when time permits. However, if you sit for most of the day, it is even more important for you to find an activity that you will regularly enjoy so that you can not only receive the benefits of movement, but also counteract the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
And, again, the most important thing to remember is that your body, and your back, need to move regularly, with good mechanics, to both prevent and recover from back pain.
Copyright © 2017 Mary A. Williams, Corporate Health Alliance, LLC/BACKCoach™. All rights reserved.