Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wondering Wednesday - Exercises for those suffering back spasms

"I found your website when looking for exercises I can do with a not-great back. I suffer from severe back spasms and I am going to physical therapy to learn stretches that would help. My question for you (besides walking 3-4 times a week) are what exercises I can do at home (can't afford a gym membership) that will help me gain muscle, lose fat and be ok with my back problems. Thank you for your help!"

Before I can suggest ANYTHING - what is causing your back spasms? Have you had a slip & fall, car accident, sporting or any other recent injury? If the answer is yes, everything depends on what your doctors’ diagnosis. Where is the pain – in the lower, mid or upper back, is it muscular, nerve related or spinal? Does it affect your neck or butt too? It is really good that you are going to physical therapy for stretching exercises! ALWAYS check with your physician before undergoing any exercise program when pain is present.

Muscles will spasm to restrict movement, protecting the body from further injury. However, the spasms alone often cause extreme pain. Most often bed rest is prescribed for a few days to help with inflammation (injury related), with activity beginning as soon as possible to keep the back from becoming weaker. Start out with stretching WARM muscles (be sure to warm up before you stretch) then add low impact cardio; walking, bike riding (provided you are not slumping to reach the handlebars) and warm water swimming. After you progress through the cardio, add strengthening exercises. When standing in one place, pay attention to your posture - are you slouching or standing with most of your weight on one leg with your hip shifted outward? Do you often carry a heavy bag on one shoulder? Abdominal and inner core exercises will help support your back, and should be done WITHOUT pain.

Lie on the floor for most of the following exercises asking your therapist to teach you proper technique; or hire a Personal Trainer certified in corrective exercises – one or two sessions should be all it takes to teach you how to perform Bridge – Lying flat on your back, bend knees to a 90 degree angle with feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abs, slowly raising your butt off the floor, keeping abs tight. Hold, lower.

“Hunting Dog” – lie on your stomach with a rolled up towel under your forehead. Lift your right arm straight out (palm down) above your head. Tighten your abs and put your shoulder blades “in your back pocket”. Add your left leg lifting only a few inches off the floor. Hold, repeat on the other side.

Forearm plank from your knees – facing the floor, place your bent elbows directly under your shoulders – lift your hips so your body is in one straight line from your head to your knees. Hold, keeping abs tight.

Crunches – lie on your back with knees bent. DO NOT ANCHOR YOUR FEET. Tighten your abs, and keeping your lower back on the floor with your chin tucked (place tongue on the roof of your mouth to help keep proper head position, weird, but true). Exhale as you lift your head and shoulders off the floor, squeezing the bottom of your rib cage down towards your hip bones. It is not about curling up high – it’s about engaging muscles effectively. Do ten reps and add a few more every day. Perform this slowly, adding just a few to build strength.

Hope these few help! If you also suffer from this problem, and would like additional exercises or information, please contact me at rockworkout[at]gmail{dot}com and I can suggest a few more exercises. REMEMBER – THESE EXERCISES SHOULD NOT CAUSE ANY MORE PAIN!

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