One of the most effective ways to keep your back and the parts that support it healthy is with regular exercise. In fact, most treatment plans for back pain not related to a serious structural problem include regular exercise, physical activity, and movement. Fortunately, if your doctor or Santa Monica spine surgeon has advised you to make exercise part of your regular routine, there are many options available. Keep reading to learn how exercise can lead to better back health.
The movement associated with exercise increases blood flow, which contributes to the delivery of beneficial nutrients to various parts of the spine. This boost in circulation can be especially good for your back if you have discomfort related to your spine’s spongy supportive discs. However, you should take sensible precautions with exercise, which means:
• Starting gradually
• Steadily increasing the intensity of your workout or exercise routine
• Paying attention to correct form and technique
To understand how exercise can lead to better back health, it helps to know how a lack of physical activity can affect the spine. In a nutshell, it can boost the odds of having back pain or make recovery from existing spine issues take longer because a lack of sufficient exercise weakens spine-supporting muscles and contributes to stiffness and discomfort.
Core-strengthening exercises are especially beneficial because they target the muscle groups that provide direct and indirect support to the spine. Specifically, these spine-stabilizing muscles are located in the lower back, abdomen, pelvis, and hips. Common core-strengthening exercises include:
• Butterfly sit-ups
• Side bends
• Leg raises
Also, consider combining core-strengthening exercises with your everyday movements. For example, you could make more of an effort to stabilize your core muscles if you regularly lift heavy objects for work, which has the added benefit of reducing your odds of sustaining a spine-related injury.
Gentle stretches can be equally effective for spine health. These are exercises that can target specific areas. For instance, hamstring stretches may be beneficial if you want to ease nerve tension affecting your sciatic nerve and relieve lower back pain.
A foam roller can also be used to perform spine-related stretches in a way that improves your posture and spinal alignment. Depending on the areas you wish to target, stretches can involve the head, neck, shoulders, or lower back area.
Walking is good for your back because it’s an effective way to increase circulation and boost the production of “feel-good” hormones called endorphins, which have natural pain-relieving properties. Walking at a pace that’s comfortable for you also has the potential to:
• Strengthen muscles that support your body when it’s upright
• Increase your flexibility
• Get more nutrients flowing to your spine
Strive for 30 minutes of walking 3–4 times a week if you’re already fairly active. However, if you’re new to walking, start with shorter walks (5 to 10 minutes) each day.
If you have existing issues with back pain, check with your doctor first to make sure your preferred type of exercise is appropriate. It can also be helpful to work with a physical therapist, chiropractor, or certified trainer if you’re just returning to your normal exercise routine after recovering from a spine-related injury or treatment such as a vertebroplasty procedure. Santa Monica residents who have long-lasting, recurrent, or severe back pain should reach out to the pioneering physicians at The Spine Institute. Our caring, industry-leading professionals specialize in diagnosing and treating back pain so patients can get back to living their normal active lives. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.