Exercises for Low Back Pain and Sciatica

In previous years, it was believed that rest was the best therapy for lower back pain, but more recent findings show that lack of physical activity can actually worsen back problems by causing poor circulation and tense muscles. Of course, rest is recommended to an extent, but after about two days of resting, the body is ready to start incorporating exercise a little bit at a time. There are a variety of exercises for low back pain and sciatica that patients can try to speed healing.

A common ailment in those with back problems is sciatica. Sciatica is not necessarily a disorder itself but rather the pain that results from lower back problems such as: herniated disk, spinal stenosis, or piriformis syndrome, to name a few. It is defined as a pain that runs from the spine down to the buttock and back of the leg. Since it can strike suddenly, exercise should be approached with extreme caution.

Before exercising, a heating pad or a warm bath can help to promote circulation to the lower back; this will ease the tension in the muscles and make them more conducive to exercise. Also, if necessary, an anti-inflammatory medication can be taken to make the next few days more tolerable. However, it is important to only take the recommended dosage as too much might prevent someone from realizing how much pain they are actually experiencing.

Prior to starting a cardiovascular workout, stretching the back muscles is recommended. Flexibility varies from person to person, so anyone using a video or book as a guide should only follow along for as long as he or she feels comfortable. One of the most common back stretches is one in which the person lies down on the floor with their knees bent, slowly bringing each knee toward the chest and holding the position for five seconds. This is continued for ten reps on each leg, alternating between the two each time.

The key is to start small – even walking for thirty minutes a day can help the body get back on track. This light cardiovascular activity will help promote better circulation to the back muscles. Walking and swimming are highly recommended exercises for those who suffer from low back pain, as these workouts are low-impact and cause minimal strain on the back. Back pain sufferers should stay away from high-impact activities such as jogging or contact sports until the back pain is healed. Also, one important thing to keep in mind is to concentrate on breathing while exercising. Improper breathing can cause a rise in blood pressure and result in poor circulation.

The recommended exercises for low back pain and sciatica are light stretches and cardiovascular activity to help improve circulation to the affected muscles. In any exercise, the goal is to feel challenged rather than to end the workout in pain. Because sciatica can strike suddenly, it is important to follow the body’s cues and stop immediately if an exercise causes pain. Pain should never be ignored, as the potential damage can be more difficult to treat. The best way to recover from back pain is to incorporate exercise gradually until the back is fully healed.

Filed Under: Sciatica
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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