When Does Back Pain Become Chronic?
Persistent back pain is one of the most common ailments. In the US, back pain is second only to the common cold as the most common reason to miss work. Acute pain, or discomfort that lasts only a short time, will affect most people at some point. Pain becomes chronic when there is little to no relief after several months, and the source of pain is hard to pinpoint. For people with chronic back pain, improving mobility is essential. Consider these 4 exercises for pain management.
1. Target hip mobility
If the root cause of back pain is sciatica, this stretch can offer significant benefits. The figure-4 stretch targets the piriformis muscle, which runs from the back of the thigh to the base of the spine. To start, lie on the back with the knees bent and feet firmly planted. Cross the right ankle over the left thigh to create a figure-4 shape with the legs. Clasp the hands around the back of the right thigh and gently pull the right thigh towards the chest until a stretch is felt. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
2. Gentle lunges
This stretch targets the psoas muscle, or the one that attaches to the front of the spine. Start in a hands-and-knees position on a yoga mat. Bring the right foot in between the hands in a lunge position. Keep the back knee on the mat. Bring the hands to the hips and lean forward into the front foot. The stretch should be felt in the hip joint, and the spine should be straight. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on both sides.
3. Hamstring stretches
The hamstring muscles run along the backs of the thighs. When the hamstrings are too tight, sitting up straight without pain is almost impossible. Start by lying flat on the back. Use a hand towel to make a loop around the bottom of the right foot. Gently extend the right foot up toward the ceiling while trying to straighten the right knee. There should be a stretching sensation down the back of the right leg. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
4. Strengthen the abs
Traditional sit-ups can be hard on the spine, especially for those with chronic back pain. Instead, try abdominal crunches to maintain spinal stability. To start, lie on the back with the knees bent and the feet firmly planted. Hold the belly in. On an exhale, lift the chest and shoulders off the ground while keeping the neck long. Hold for 1-2 seconds, then inhale to lie back down. Repeat for 10-15 reps, or until fatigued.
Managing chronic pain
Living with chronic back pain is a challenge. Many patients experience excellent results from a combination of home pain management strategies. These remedies might include regular strengthening and stretching exercises, over-the-counter pain relievers, or hot and cold therapy. For more information about pain management, speak with a healthcare provider.