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News from Main Line Physical Therapy

cache_3237556504Most people in the United States will experience low back pain (LBP) at least once in their life time. Most episodes of LBP go away within a few days, while other episodes may take weeks or months to resolve.

Back pain can result from prolonged sitting/standing or bending and lifting. Often times one does not remember any activity which may have caused their pain episode. Trauma such as a sporting activity, motor vehicle accident or a slip and fall accident may cause LBP.

In moderate to severe cases, back pain can radiate to the buttock, thigh and sometimes to the foot. A person may say his/her back feels weak or stiff. Numbness or hypersensitivity in an area can be reported. The specific tissues in your back that are pain sensitive include the muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments as well as the discs and nerves.

Most cases of back pain resolve without medical intervention while others may require pain/anti-inflammatory medications and/or physical therapy. If you are considering whether physical therapy is right for you remember, all physical therapist are not equal when treating LBP.

Many people who choose the physical therapy option may rely on their physician recommendation as the best choice. Many times, a doctor will refer you to the clinic which is close to your home or place of employment. If that is the case, make sure you get the physical therapist at that particular clinic who has the greatest experience treating LBP and more specifically, your type of LBP.

Question:   I have osteopenia of my central spine. I do weight-bearing exercises (light hand weights and some machine weights for upper body), and walk/run daily. I was told to move on and target my spine as a next step. Can you tell me what exercises would be useful to do that?

Answer:  The weight bearing exercises that you are doing are very good for bone health. To address the spine, it is important to think about protecting your back as well as strengthening it. Good back habits will go a long way toward your bone health. Remember these key points:

  • Change postures frequently. The ideal posture maintains a small amount of curve in your lower back while keeping your ear lobe, shoulder, and ankle in a straight line when viewed from the side.
  • Avoid twisting, especially when carrying or moving something heavy.
  • Avoid carrying things that are too heavy or require you to stay in a poor posture for a prolonged period.
  • Use the strength of your legs to lift objects from the floor. Keep the feet wide apart to maintain good balance and keep the small curve in the low back by bending at the knees and hips, not the spine.
  • To strengthen back and abdominal muscles, also known as the “core muscles” consider the following exercises:
  • Sit erect on a therapy ball working to maintain the small curve in the low back while keeping abdominal muscles tight and pulled in toward the spine.
  • On hands and knees, tighten the abdominals as to move the navel toward the spine while maintaining a slight inward curve of your low back. Lift one arm, one leg, or an arm on one side and a leg on the opposite side while keeping your spine from moving out of position.
  • Stand with your back against a wall with a slight inward curve of your low back and your stomach tight (navel to spine). Lift your arms to the sides or forward while maintaining the start position for the back.

A physical therapist can evaluate your strength and prescribe an individualized program for you selecting the best exercises that will maximize your strength taking into consideration your current physical condition, other medical conditions, and personal goals.