Health (things to know) / Stretches (relief)

Managing Low Back Pain

Back in 2009, I worked as a medical assistant in a busy gynecologist’s office. I was on my feet all day, running back and forth between rooms, spaces, and computers. Within about 2 months I started to notice some unusual sharp low back pains that would worsen throughout the day. Eventually it got so bad that I decided to ask my doctor for a referral.

Interestingly enough, she referred me to a DO physician. Before then I didn’t know what a “DO” was, but after seeing Dr. Heidi Prather my interest in osteopathic medical schools was sparked. She gracefully swooped around my spine and determined that I had problems with extension in my lumbar area. I was referred to a physical therapist for the remainder of the summer.

While in physical therapy, I noticed some improvement. The key to successful management of my pain was definitely the time I put into exercises. Admittedly, I was terrible at this. In all likelihood if I’d put more time into actually doing what my physical therapist recommended, I’d probably have noticed a more significant change. Eventually I stopped all together. And guess what? My low back pain got worse again.

So, what’s the big deal?

84% of people in the US have low back pain at some point in their life. 84%. That is astronomical!! And most of the time, this low back pain is “nonspecific,” which is an official medical term for “I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” For me, I think my problems are definitely connected to stress. When school gets stressful, my back screams at me. When I walk for too long, my back rebels. For the most part, it’s manageable, but there are times when it feels impossible.

I’m sure many of you know what I’m talking about.

Now that I’m attending an osteopathic medical school, I’m being exposed to all of these exercises and means of diagnosing from a clinical perspective. It’s pretty cool! All of the techniques Dr. Prather used and that my physical therapist showed me are coming back full circle. So I went into some my file cabinet (yes, I have a file cabinet) and dug up my old physical therapy exercises. I scanned them in and am sharing them with all of you.

A few thoughts:

1.) These exercises were “prescribed” for me, specific to my problem. That being said, I just learned about a lot of these in school and know that they are broad enough to be useful for most lower back problems. This is only if your low back pain is mechanical. That means no fractures, nerve injuries, clots, muscle tears or other specific diagnosed problem. Make sure you consult a physician if you are unsure.

2.) Sometimes exercises aren’t enough. I’ve been getting phototherapy treatments every so often that I think have helped. Yoga also helps, but shoulder stands and fish pose are death sentences for me. I use a cushion support in my car and try to sit with back support. It may take time, but it’s worth it to find small things you can do that will help.

3.) Don’t do anything that causes pain. These exercises in particular, should not be painful at all.

4.) Strengthen your abdominals. This is the major target with low back pain. In fact, some patients with low back pain are actually treated for problems in the abdominal area leading to eventual back pain resolution. Squeeze in!

 

Here are some ideas. Let me know if you have any questions about the movements.

Pelvic Tilt and lift.

Pelvic Tilt and lift.

 

Low Back Two

 

Cat Cows and Knee Rock

Cat Cows and Knee Rock

 

Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

 

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