Exercise is Essential for Back Pain Relief
The most simple and natural stimulus for the healing process in the spine is active exercise in a controlled, gradual and progressive manner. Movement keeps the discs, muscles, ligaments and joints in the spine healthy and physical activity also allows for the diffusion of nutrients into the disc space and helps it stay healthy.
Conversely, too much rest worsens pain and pain often prevents us from getting enough exercise. A lack of exercise can also worsen the pain by leading to stiffness, weakness and deconditioning. In the case of a disc injury, significant inactivity deprives the injured disc of the nutrition it needs and this can lead to further degeneration and pain. Additionally, exercise and activity is needed to maintain the exchange of fluids in spinal structures and reduce swelling that naturally occurs in the tissues surrounding an injured disc. This swelling can further irritate nerves that are already affected by the highly inflammatory herniated disc material.
Stretching, strengthening and aerobic conditioning exercises are important. It may take weeks or months of stretching, but hopefully you may find that the increase in motion provided by stretching leads to significant, sustained pain relief. Stretching your hamstrings regularly is also an essential therapy for lower back pain and sciatica. If an episode of lower back pain has lasted 2 weeks or more, a strengthening program is critical to any long–term recovery.
Aerobically conditioned patients also tend to have less back pain. Low impact aerobic exercise brings nutrients to injured structures in the back and helps them heal. Walking or biking can often be effective forms of low impact exercise. If you are in severe pain, water therapy is a good option that can provide multiple therapeutic and conditioning benefits with less stress.
What ever you do, please try to start an individualized exercise program. Depending on your specific diagnosis and level of pain, your rehabilitation program may be very different, so it is important to see a spine specialist who is trained to develop an individualized exercise program and instruct you on correct form and technique.