Regular exercise is an essential part of having a healthy back. In the treatment of back pain, almost every healthcare provider agrees that exercise plays an important role in recovery. Every day we make demands on our bodies that can stress our backs. It’s a well known fact that the more fit you are, and the stronger your back is, the more easily your body can deal with the stress and strain of every day activity.
Unfortunately, when most people start to experience back pain, they become less active. As a result, the muscles that support the spinal column become weaker and have less endurance. If your back loses enough muscle tone, the muscles can shrink, contract and tighten. Your back may feel tight much of the time, tire easily, and start to feel uncomfortable even when you are sitting in a chair. The feelings associated with chronic back pain and spinal fatigue make most people feel drained, tired and depressed. It becomes harder and harder to break the cycle of pain causing inactivity, which causes more pain, which then causes more inactivity. Eventually, this scenario can lead to other health problems that are the direct result of inactivity, such as heart attacks, strokes and obesity.
Therefore, exercise is an important part of the “use it or lose it” theory of overall spine health. Patients with chronic low back pain are particularly susceptible to suffering from the ill effects of too little exercise. If it hurts when you move your back, and is less uncomfortable when you don’t, then you have the perfect incentive to become less active with time. Although this may seem like a logical reaction to pain, it is almost certain that avoiding physical activity will make the pain become even worse over time. This knowledge comes from the unhappy experience that doctors have had in the past with prescribing prolonged bed rest and inactivity for back pain, which over time, only aggravated the situation and made it more difficult to treat in the long run. We now know that if you want to relieve the physical pain of many types of back pain while also making yourself stronger both mentally and physically, you need to get moving.
A commitment to a physical conditioning program that is approved by your physician is important to everyone, but it is especially important to those with chronic back pain. Exercise has many benefits, and has even been called a healthy “non-chemical tranquilizer,” because the process of stretching and strengthening the muscles of the back produces a feeling of relaxation and well being similar to that produced by many muscle relaxants and pain relievers. Low back pain is often described as a “psychobiological” problem, meaning that it includes both physical and psychological components. Exercise can help treat both parts of this problem, by providing you with a healthy means of relieving some of the frustration and sense of helplessness associated with low back pain, in addition to treating the problem at its very heart.
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