Low back pain (LBP) is a very common problem that affects most of us at some point in life and for some, it’s a daily issue. Through education and research, researchers have found low back-specific exercises can not only help get rid of LBP but can also prevent future exacerbations or episodes. Like brushing our teeth, low back exercises are equally important in order to maintain, preserve, and optimize function. But because there are SO MANY exercise options available, it’s hard to know which ones are best, especially for each specific person.
There are different methods for determining the right low back exercises for the patient. One of the most common is to try different exercises to determine individual tolerance, but this is not very specific, as it only determines whether or not the patient is comfortable with an exercise. Another is using physical performance tests (PPTs) that measure the strength and endurance of specific muscle groups, muscle shortness, balance, aerobic capacity, and spinal range of motion.
Physical performance tests are much more specific because they address each patient’s differences. Also, many PPTs include normative data to compare against the patient’s own performance, so repeat use of the abnormal PPTs on a monthly interval can gauge their progress (or the lack thereof), which is motivating to the patient and serves as a great outcome measure!
PPTs are typically done two to four weeks after an initial presentation or at a time when the condition is stable so as not to irritate the condition. Initially, the decision as to which exercise is best is often made by something called “directional preference” or positional bias. This simply means if a patient feels best by bending over, we initially give “flexion-biased” exercises.
Flexion-biased exercises include (partial list): pulling the knees to the chest (single then double), posterior pelvic tilts (flattening the low back into the floor), sitting and/or standing bend overs, hamstring stretches, and more. If a person’s low back feels best bending backwards, their doctor of chiropractic may give extension-biased exercises, which include (partial list): standing back bends, saggy push-ups (prone press-ups), and/or laying on pillows or a gym ball on their back, arching over the ball.
Chiropractors generally add exercises gradually once they’ve determined tolerance and will recheck to make sure the patient is doing them correctly. Studies show that spinal manipulation achieves great short-term results, but when exercise is added to the treatment plan, the patient can achieve a more satisfying long-term result.
Unfortunately, other studies have shown that ONLY 4% of patients continue their exercises after pain is satisfactorily managed and they fall back into old habits of not exercising.
The Sternocleidomastoid muscle is a strap like muscle in your neck. It originates on the manubrium and medial clavicle. It inserts on the mastoid process of the temporal bone, and the superior nuchal line. This muscle acts alone to rotate the face to the opposite side and lift it two rod the ceiling. Together they flex the head and neck. Trigger points in sternal division of this muscle refer pain to the cheek and along the supraorbital ridge. The lowest points refer down to the sternum. The highest points refer to the occipital ridge and vertex of the head. Trigger points in the costal division refer to the into the forehead. The most superior trigger points refer into the ear, and can postural dizziness.
Did you know that 50-72% of women have low back pain (LBP) and/or pelvic pain during their pregnancy but only 32% do something about it? Let’s look closer!
Pregnancy-related low back pain (PLBP) can be a highly debilitating syndrome that accounts for the most common cause of sick leave for pregnant women. In 2004, Americans spent $26.1 billion dollars in an effort to find relief from back pain during pregnancy. Statistics show one out of ten women will experience daily DISABLING LBP for at least two years following delivery.
Because of the limited number of treatment options available for the pregnant woman due to mother and fetus safety, and given the high propensity of potentially disabling PLBP that can significantly limit function and quality of life, chiropractic care seems to be a natural choice for this patient population! Obviously, pharmaceuticals and surgery are NOT appropriate options for the expectant mother, even during the post-partum breast-feeding time period. Chiropractic offers a non-invasive and safe approach to managing lumbopelvic pain that uses many different approaches.
In a 2009 research paper, 78 women participated in a study that investigated disability, pain intensity, and percent improvement after receiving chiropractic care to treat pregnancy-related PLBP. Here, 73% reported their improvement as either “excellent” or “good.” For disability and pain, 51% and 67% (respectively) experienced clinically significant improvement! Researchers followed up with them eleven months later and found 85.5% reported their improvement as either “excellent” or “good!” For disability and pain, 73% and 82% (respectively) experienced clinically significant improvement!
So, what’s causing LBP in pregnant women? Because of the biomechanical changes that occur in the low back and pelvis over a relatively short amount of time during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters, common pain generators include (but are not limited to): the sacroiliac joint, facet joints, shock-absorbing disks, and the many connecting muscles (strains) and ligaments (sprains). During the later stages of pregnancy, the hormone Relaxin prepares the pelvis for delivery by widening the pelvic girdle, which can also be problematic.
Treatment options within chiropractic often include spinal manipulation, lumbopelvic exercises, patient education, posture correction, massage, an SI belt, soft tissue mobilization, and more. Exercises that target the transverse abdominus, multifidus, and pelvic floor muscles help to stabilize the lumbopelvic region. The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists recommends exercise at least three times a week during pregnancy, and studies report NO obstetric complications (pre-term labor, premature ruptured membranes, or changes to maternal or neonatal weight) with exercise.
So, the answer is clear! When PLBP strikes, seek chiropractic care to safely and effectively manage the pain and disability and so you can ENJOY YOUR PREGNANCY!!!
We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs. If you, a friend, or family member requires care for back pain, we would be honored to render our services.