Chronic low-back pain is referred to, simply as pain in the lower back. It is considered chronic if it has been present for more than three months at a time. Chronic low back pain can come from injury, disease or stresses on different body structures. The pain coming from the lower back can range from aching, burning, tingling, sharp or stabbing. Eventually, this chronic illness can lead to or be the cause of back stiffness, decreased movement of the lower back and difficulty standing straight up (North, 2009).
I chose to research this topic because both of my parents have chronic low back pain. My father’s is from his job – construction worker – and my mother’s is from family history – her mother had it. Therefore, I am at much greater risk of having chronic low back pain in the future, especially because my future career path as a physical therapist requires much lifting. I currently do have mid to low back pain. My job at home as a physical therapist aide requires much lifting, walking and standing.
I also played volleyball for fourteen years of my life and the stresses from that on my lower back has been unbelievably painful. There are many risk factors associated with chronic low back pain. To list a few, family history, gender, previous back injuries, occupational risks, and poor posture. Those who have had family members with chronic low back pain are more likely to have chronic low back pain, as well. Women who have had at least two or more pregnancies are at more risk for having chronic low back pain than men.
Relapses are common for those that have had previous low back pain or an injury causing low back pain increasing the risk to have chronic low back pain. Jobs that require prolonged standing or sitting, lifting heavy weights or working with vibrating tools can be risks for chronic low back pain (Low, 2012). It is important for those with chronic low back pain to exercise because it can help to reduce the severity of the pain, recover faster from injury, prevent future injuries and potentially reduce the risk for low back disabilities in the future.
Stretching and strengthening one’s core can simply reduce the risk of injury and help with recovery. If there is lack of physical activity, loss of flexibility, endurance and strength can cause more low back pain. That’s just one reason why exercise is important for those who have chronic low back pain (Healthwise, 2011). The actual exercise prescription should have exercises on it that range from aerobic, stretching and strengthening exercises. Aerobic exercises are important to condition the heart and other muscles to help with a quick recovery.
Strengthening exercises focus more on the core – stomach, back and leg muscles. It is important that ALL of these muscles are strong. If they are not strong, then weaknesses and pain – such a low back pain – occur. Stretching exercises are important in that they keep muscles flexible preventing stiffness and soreness (Healthwise, 2011). Yoga and Tai Chi are both ways to stretch and strengthen. Basic core and back exercises much seen in strengthening exercises should be done on a regular basis. These exercises should be low/non-impact exercises to avoid further damage to the lower back.
Some movements that should be avoided at all costs when exercising with chronic low back pain include unsupported forward spinal flexion, twisting at the waist with planted feet, lifting both legs while in a prone or supine position, spinal compression and rapid spinal movements. These can cause more injuries to the lower back. Once the pain becomes less prevalent in these low impact exercises, some low cardiovascular exercises can be done three to four days a week if pain is tolerable or minimal (ACE, 2012).
Recent studies have shown that yoga has many benefits to those with lower back pain. One study in particular compared the effectiveness of yoga on low-back pain vs. the usual care for those with low-back pain. Roughly around three-hundred people were in this study. Half were in a twelve week yoga program while the other half just did the usual minimum care for their low-back pains. At the conclusion of the twelve week trial, it was found that the twelve-week yoga program was more beneficial to those with the back pain than the usual care was (Tilbrook, 2011).
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