Depending upon a patient's individual injury and level of pain, the exercise and rehabilitation program may vary. Please consult with your doctor of chiropractic prior to starting a new exercise or rehabilitation program, especially when associated with low-back pain or discomfort. He or she can help develop an individualized exercise program and provide instruction on the proper stretching techniques.
Exercises to Safeguard Your Back
Hamstring Stretch Lie on your back with both legs straight. Extend one leg straight up in the air. Loop a towel over the arch of the lifted foot, and gently pull on the towel as you push against it with your foot until a stretch is felt in the back of the thigh. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times on each side.
Piriformis Stretch The piriformis muscle runs through the buttock and can contribute to back and leg pain. To stretch this muscle, lie on the back and cross one leg over the other; gently pull the knee toward the chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock area. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times.
Back Stretch Lie on your stomach. Use your arms to push your upper body off the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Let your back relax and sag. Repeat 10 times.
Leg Raises Lie on your stomach. Tighten the muscles in one leg and raise it from the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 5 times with each leg.
Bridges Lie on your back with your knees flexed and your feet flat on the floor. Keep the knees together. Tighten the muscles of the lower abdomen and buttocks so as to flatten your lower back against the floor. Slowly raise your hips up from the floor and hold for a slow count of 10. Repeat this exercise 3 times. If you cannot raise your hips from the floor, merely tighten the belly, the abdominal and buttock muscles, and wait until you can raise the hips.
The Pointer Kneel on mat on hands and knees, with palms directly under shoulders and knees hip-width apart. Slowly raise right arm, and extend it forward parallel to floor. (Balance by contracting your abdominal muscles.) Keep right palm parallel to the floor, then lift the left leg, and straighten it behind you. Hold opposing limbs off the ground for 30 to 60 seconds without arching your back. Switch sides. Repeat 3 to 6 times.
The Cardio Component Engaging in cardiovascular exercise can help aid in rehabilitation of the spine and help prevent future injury. Most health care professionals recommend 20 to 30 minutes of cardio exercise three to four days per week to improve cardiovascular endurance and help lose weight. Until you've recovered from back pain, select low-impact activities that burn calories, but won't place undue stress on your joints. Consider alternating cardio exercise and strength training to get the most from your workouts and to allow your muscles time to recover.
Stretching Tips To get the maximum benefit from stretching, proper technique is essential. The American Chiropractic Association offers the following tips: Warm up your muscles before stretching by walking or doing other gentle movements for 10 to 15 minutes. Slowly increase your stretch as you feel your muscles relax. Don't bounce. Stretch slowly and gently only to the point of mild tension, not to the point of pain. Don't hold your breath. Inhale deeply before each stretch and exhale during the stretch. As your flexibility increases, consider increasing the number of repetitions. Stop immediately if you feel any severe pain. For more health tips, visit the ACA's Web site at www.acatoday.org/patients
*Type of Exercise **Avg. Calories Burned per 30 min. ***Notes
*Water Therapy **270 ***Walking in a shallow pool can provide weightless conditioning, which minimizes stress on the back. However, for some patients swimming and water aerobics may cause too much rotation of the spine. Be sure to first consult with your health care provider.
*Elliptical Trainer **300 ***Focus on standing upright and maintaining good posture. Don't lock your knees.
*Walking **265 ***Walking is very gentle on the back. Avoid walking on concrete or uneven terrain.
*Stationary Recumbent Bike **250 ***A safe form of cardio because you press your lower back against the seat rest at all times.