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Reduce Back Pain Through Exercise

written by: meagz2 • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 10/27/2010

Back pain seems to be a complaint of most people at some point in their life. But what do you do if this is a chronic problem? This article will offer ideas on how exercise and physical activity can reduce back pain.

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    Back pain can be caused by numerous things such as tight muscles, herniated discs, weak muscles, and even daily stress. The good news is that you can learn techniques to relieve and prevent these pains. It is important to see a doctor to find out if you do have herniated discs causing your back pain, but even if so, physical activity and regular exercise can help reduce your back pain and prevent further damage.

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    Relief Through Stretching

    Tight muscles in the lower back and legs are common causes of back pain due to the spine being pulled out of its normal alignment. Daily stretching can make these muscles more flexible and allow the spine to return to its natural position.

    Stretching the hamstrings, the muscles in the back of the thighs, can dramatically reduce back pain if you have tight hamstrings.

    To stretch these muscles, lie on your back and place a rope or belt around one foot with your leg out straight. Hold the ends of the rope in one hand. Then allow your leg to lift itself up as far as it can go while remaining straight. When it seems to have reached its maximum stretching point, gently pull on the rope to bring your leg a couple inches further. Hold for 2 seconds and then start over. Repeat 10 times and by the end you should see your leg stretching further. Repeat on other leg.

    While you are stretching, remember to keep your hips and back flat on the floor and breathe slowly.

    People who sit at a desk all day should try to take mini stretching breaks to help prevent back pain from developing. Be sure to stretch the hip flexors (the front of the thigh at the hip area) as these can tighten up when sitting for long periods of time.

    Full body stretching daily will provide the most relief. Spend 5 minutes stretching right in bed before you get up in the morning. If you do workout allow for 5-10 minutes of stretching at the end of your workout. It is always better to stretch muscles once they have been warmed up.

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    Develop a Stronger Core

    When the muscles of the core (specifically the abdominal muscles and back muscles) are weak, they do not properly support the spine throughout the day. The muscles in this area need to have muscular endurance, not necessarily strength.

    This means that they must be able to sustain a moderate weight for long periods of time, not be able to lift extraordinary amounts of weight. The muscles must be able to support the weight of your body to help your spine.

    Start to become aware of your stomach muscles. As you go through your day, try to remember to pull your belly button toward your spine until this has become a habit. Doing so will activate your abdominal muscles and help them develop endurance.

    This goes along with having good posture. Good posture will create a stronger core and vice versa, and this in turn will reduce back pain.

    A couple of good exercises to build core endurance are the plank and Superman Opposites, both of which have many variations and levels of difficulty.

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    Weight Loss

    For anyone carrying around extra body fat, it is imperative to lose weight to minimize stress on the spine. It is especially important to lose the fat around the mid-section because it is pulling the spine out of its normal alignment and this will cause lower back pain.

    Doing cardiovascular exercise will help you lose weight while building endurance in muscles all over, especially in the legs and core.

    Most people will notice relief in their back with as little as 10 pounds lost. Start off with 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day and gradually build up to as much as 60 minutes.

    Try using the elliptical and treadmill since these machines will allow you to work on your posture and core muscles at the same time, as opposed to a recumbent bicycle.

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    The Good News

    If you are currently experiencing back pain, relief can be just around the corner. Begin with a general exercise program that includes cardiovascular exercise, weight training, and stretching.

    My clients always rave about how they no longer have back pain even just 2 weeks into their personal training sessions. You have nothing to lose. Even if the pain does not go away quickly, everyone can use a good exercise program for general health reasons.