Low Back Answers

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Dear Doctors,

Q. I heard that it is never good to bend forward at the waist when lifting. If a person gradually exercises to get their back muscles stronger, would bending this way be permissible?

A. This is a good question. It would seem logical that if a person performed back strengthening exercises, that their muscles would be more equipped to lifting weight while they are bent at the waist; however this is not the case. When a person bends forward at the waist, they loose the bony protection in the back of the spine and the disc is susceptible to herniating or “slipping”. For this reason, it is of paramount importance to
keep your back straight when lifting.

Q. Besides lifting what are other activities that can aggravate a back?

A. Some of the more common activities that aggravate a low back are vacuuming, sweeping, shoveling snow, raking, hoeing, and repetitive activities that require a person to extend their back while twisting. The latter activity described, extension and rotation or twisting, is one of the most common causes of a person herniating a low back disc. It is not uncommon for a patient to report to a chiropractic physician that they picked up a bag of groceries out of a trunk of a car, twisted, and felt intense back pain and pain shooting down their leg.

Q. If a person has low back pain, should they exercise to strengthen it?

A. Eventually strengthening will be important for a person with low back pain, however, if you exercise an inflamed joint, it will become more inflamed or irritated. Likewise if a person exercises a back that is “out of place” they may be building up muscles to help hold the back in the “out of place” position. Back exercises are important, but need to be incorporated at the right time. In our office, we introduce range of motion exercises, which are specific stretches, when a patients pain level has lessened, and when swelling is diminished. As a sequel to we gradually will incorporate strengthening exercises to lay down core musculature which stabilizes and prevents vertebra from slipping in and out of the correct orientation.

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