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Ease low back pain with the right exercises.

At some point, nearly everyone experiences low back pain that interferes with work, daily chores, or recreational activities. But relieving that pain may be easier than you think. According to the National Institutes of Health, "exercise may be the most effective way to both speed recovery from low back pain and help strengthen back and abdominal muscles."

Robert Turner, PT, OCS, a Board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist and advanced clinician in the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at the Weill-Cornell affiliated Hospital for Special Surgery, agrees, and adds, "Postural awareness--knowing how to sit, bend, lift, and carry things--is also key."

Acute or chronic? There are two types of back pain, Turner explains. Acute pain can be the result of a sudden jolt or other trauma, or twisting or pulling the low back while attempting to lift something heavy. "If symptoms include a shooting or stabbing pain, pain that radiates down the leg, or limited range of motion, see your doctor immediately," he advises.

Chronic low-back pain, which is more common, "often is the result of spinal degeneration and weak abdominal muscles, especially as we get older. The pain often comes and goes, with occasional flareups," Turner says. "Those flareups may respond to icing for about 20 minutes every hour or two for the first 48 hours, after which you can switch over to moist heat, such as a heating pad, for 30 minutes or so every couple of hours." Dry heat, such as an electric blanket, is not helpful because it dehydrates the muscles. "You'll feel good when you're on it, but when you cool down, you'll get really stiff," he cautions.

"The important thing is to stay as active as possible to keep blood flowing to the muscles," Turner says. "Sometimes, using moist heat before exercise can help, because it warms up the tissues, making stretching and strengthening easier. What you don't want to do is stay in bed. Regular, gentle exercises can help put you back in action."

Reduce your risks. Being overweight, in poor physical condition, or using posture that is inappropriate for the activity you're doing ali can contribute to low back pain. The following tips can help:

* Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for whatever you're doing. Keep your shoulders back and down--avoid slouching.

* Lift heavy objects by getting as close to the object as possible, bending your knees, engaging your abdominal muscles, and keeping your back as straight as possible. Keep the object close to your body as you return to a standing position.

* Exercise regularly. If you're prone to back pain, stick with low-impact activities such as swimming, stationary bike riding, or gentle yoga.

"Recurring back pain resulting from improper body mechanics is often preventable," Turner stresses. "A combination of exercises that don't jolt or strain the back and maintaining good posture can help prevent injuries."


Two exercises to help relieve and prevent low back pain:

Side stretches: Lie on your back with both legs straight. Bend your right leg and, holding the right knee or thigh with your left hand, bring the bent leg over your left leg. Gently press your right thigh or knee toward the floor while extending your right arm straight out to the side and turning your head to the right. You will feel a stretch in your lower back, buttocks, and up your spine to your chest. Hold for three to four slow, deep breaths. Return to the starting position, then do the exercise on the other side. Do the exercise once or twice on each side, three or four times a day.

Abdominal strengthener:

Lie on your back with your legs bent, knees together. Keeping your abdominals engaged (pull them slightly in and up) and upper body still, slowly roll your legs to the left. Hold for three to four slow, deep breaths, and then slowly roll your legs to the right. Repeat two to four times to each side. Do this exercise two or three times daily. Note: If you feel increasing pain in your low back while doing this exercise, stop and see your doctor.
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Title Annotation:BODYWORKS
Publication:Women's Nutrition Connection
Date:Nov 1, 2013
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