Back Pain: Stretches & Strengthening Exercises to eliminate your suffering

Women stretching her back to eliminate back pain (Sciatica hernia) and suffering

August 30, 2020

Back pain is a very common ailment. But there is hope, even for people who have been suffering chronically. There are completely natural, self treatment options without side effects to get better.

“What happens when people open their hearts?”
“They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

“Listen to God with a broken heart. He is not only the doctor who mends it, but also the father who wipes away the tears.”
― Criss Jami

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
― Rumi

Back pain is a very common ailment. About 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. Statistics show that two thirds of people in the United States have experienced at least one incident of back pain. It may show up as pain in the muscles, slipped disc, arthritis, stabbing pain, or pain extending to one or both legs (sciatica). certain risk factors such as age (as you get older), lack of exercise ( weak back and abdominal muscles which don’t support your spine), excess weight (being overweight or obese), pregnancy, or having a job that requires weight lifting or excessive forward bending may elevate one’s risk for low back pain.

Many people resort to intrusive techniques, spinal manipulation, taking anti inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs or surgery to get relief. Others go to an acupuncturist for help, which creates a dependency. None of these options may be necessary for most cases. For most people, there are natural, better ways (self treatment, completely natural, no side effects) to bring improvement and restore function.

According to the Mayoclinic, “Fortunately, you can take measures to prevent or relieve most back pain episodes. If prevention fails, simple home treatment and proper body mechanics often will heal your back within a few weeks and keep it functional. Surgery is rarely needed to treat back pain.”

Understanding the human spine: Vertebrae, Disks, Ligaments and tendons, Spinal nerves

Human beings have an amazingly flexible S shaped spine which lets us move forward, backward, sideways…basically left, right, center everywhere.

  • Shock absorbing Disks – In between every vertebrae are special cartridges called disks. The outside of the disk is tough and strong, inside the disks are filled with with a jelly-like substance. Disks act as shock absorbers or cushions between the vertebrae and keep them in place. The discs are able to change their shape which offer people so much flexibility to move.
  • Ligaments and tendons – Ligaments and tendons are connective tissue that attach to bone. Ligaments connect two or more bones together and help stabilize joints. Tendons attach the muscles to bones. Ligaments stabilize the spine, and protect the discs.
  • Spinal nerves – The spinal nerves act as “telephone lines,” carrying messages back and forth between your body and spinal cord to control sensation and movement. Each spinal nerve has two roots

Here is a video from Quebec Pain Research Network to better understand lower back structures and chronic low back pain treatment approaches. The common approaches for treating low back pain include exercises, relaxation techniques and medication. The focus of this blog is stretches and exercises which can help loosen your back, relieve pressure, and alleviate pain.

Herniated and Bulging Discs

The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine in the back are cushioned by small discs. Located between each of the vertebrae in the spinal column, discs act as shock absorbers (cushions) for the spinal bones (vertebrae in your spine). The soft material inside a disk can bulge or rupture.

When the soft material inside a disc bulges, it is referred to as a bulging disc. A herniated disc is a fragment of the disc nucleus that is pushed out of the annulus, into the spinal canal through a tear or rupture in the annulus. 

Discs that become herniated usually are in an early stage of degeneration. The spinal canal has limited space, which is inadequate for the spinal nerve and the displaced herniated disc fragment. Due to this displacement, the disc presses on spinal nerves, often producing pain, which may be severe.

Herniated discs can occur in any part of the spine. Herniated discs are more common in the lower back (lumbar spine), but also occur in the neck (cervical spine). The area in which pain is experienced depends on what part of the spine is affected. A bulging disk doesn’t always affect the entire perimeter of a disk, but at least a quarter if not half of the disk’s circumference is usually affected. Only the outer layer of tough cartilage is involved.

According to Drugs.com, “A herniated disk, on the other hand, results when a crack in the tough outer layer of cartilage allows some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disk. Herniated disks are also called ruptured disks or slipped disks, although the whole disk does not rupture or slip. Only the small area of the crack is affected.Compared with a bulging disk, a herniated disk is more likely to cause pain because it generally protrudes farther and is more likely to irritate nerve roots. The irritation can be from compression of the nerve or, much more commonly, the herniation causes a painful inflammation of the nerve root.”

Herniated Disc Symptoms and Sciatica

According to Dr. Branko Prpa, “Symptoms vary greatly depending on the position of the herniated disc and the size of the herniation. If the herniated disc is not pressing on a nerve, the patient may experience a low backache or no pain at all. If it is pressing on a nerve, there may be pain, numbness or weakness in the area of the body to which the nerve travels. Typically, a herniated disc is preceded by an episode of low back pain or a long history of intermittent episodes of low back pain. Sciatica frequently results from a herniated disc in the lower back. Pressure on one or several nerves that contribute to the sciatic nerve can cause pain, burning, tingling and numbness that radiates from the buttock into the leg and sometimes into the foot. Usually one side (left or right) is affected. This pain often is described as sharp and electric shock-like. It may be more severe with standing, walking or sitting. Along with leg pain, one may experience low back pain”

The video below from Healthchanneltv / cherishyourhealthtv explains what lower back pain (sciatica and hernia) is.

When is the spine healthy?

When the muscles and bones of the spine are strong, and the ligaments and tendons are flexible flexible, and the nerves are sensitive to carry messages back and forth.

Root causes of back pain

When any of the spinal structures (muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks or vertebrae) are affected by strain, injury, degeneration due to age or disease, it causes pain. Most back pain is mechanical, caused by everyday stress to the back.

  • Disk degeneration with aging – As one ages, disks material generally degenerates. Disks dehydrate, show signs of wear and their cartilage stiffens, making it less flexible. By age 35, approximately 30% of people will show evidence of disc degeneration at one or more levels. the disc becomes thin, and the space between the vertebrae is narrow. Also, The ligaments may begin to weaken with age.
  • Poor posture – Due to poor posture, the ligaments and soft tissues in the spinal area are overstretched. When we remain in a poor postural position for a long time for example when sitting long hours in front of the computer in a slouched position or stoping while working, or lying down in a way that causes strain to the back, over stretching happens. For example when we sit in a certain position for quite some time, we slouch. If we slouch in an everyday basis for substantial time, the ligaments in the lower back area and discs get compromised, which causes pain.
  • Lack of exercise – When there is no or inadequate exercise, back, stomach, legs and other muscles are not strong. body gets out of alignment, Weight is not evenly distributed, and spine is not too flexible. There is additional strain on the back muscles, ligaments and disks.
  • Excess weight – Extra weight puts additional stress on the spine, causing degeneration and pain.
  • Pregnancy and improper lifting of weights – Pregnancy and improper lifting of weights may cause stress to the spine, resulting in pain.

Natural solutions to back pain

  • Improve your posture – Just correcting your posture and being conscious of it while sitting, standing, walking, driving, lifting weights will give long lasting relief. For sitting, Choose a seat with good lower back support and appropriate height for the task at hand. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the back can help you maintain the normal curve of the back and provide support. Automobile seats should also have adequate low-back support. If not, putting a pillow or rolled towel will help. Change your position frequently, or walk around periodically, every half an hour. If your pain is coming from prolonged standing, correcting your standing posture will definitely help. While standing don’t slouch, keep your head up and stomach pulled in. If your work or activities require you to bend forward for prolonged periods of time, don’t be in a stopped position too long. Give your spinal muscles and ligaments frequent breaks from that pressure. If you need to lift something heavy, Keep your back straight, bend only at the knees and stand close to the load.
  • Back stretches and exercises – Pain does not mean that we are physically weak to undertake the physical challenges of life. In most of the cases, pain means that either there is inadequate or inappropriate (unnatural) motion. The good news is regular functional ability can be restored through regular and appropriate use of musculoskeletal system. Do some back friendly stretches and exercises. With the right exercises, you will reduce muscle spasms, strengthen the back and other muscles and ligaments, increase flexibility of the spine, improve alignment and weight distribution. Don’t skip your warm up prior to exercising. When you suddenly put pressure on your spine without warming up, it may be harmful. Let me introduce you to two very effective exercise programs below. The first one is Mckenzie Method and the second one is Pete Egoscue’s method.

McKenzie exercise and postural correction method

Robert McKenzie offers a do-it-yourself program for lower back pain relief through postural changes, and simple exercises. He provides clear understanding of the causes of persistent back pain. The program consists of seven exercises for the back, four extension exercise (bending backward) and flexion exercises (bending forward). The objective of these exercises is to remove pain and restore normal function. McKenzie method suggests postural correction along with these exercises to maintain the health of your back.

Here is a link to the book ‘Treat Your Own Back’ written by Robin A McKenzie explaining the McKenzie method.

https://www.amazon.com/Treat-Your-Back-Robin-McKenzie/dp/0987650408/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=mcjkenzie&qid=1598957305&sr=8-1-spell

Below are two videos demonstrating McKenzie exercises to relieve back pain (the first one from DR-HO’S Youtube channel and the the second video is from Physical Therapists Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineck. The second video specifically focusses on patients who have Sciatica & Herniated Disc.

McKenzie exercises for Back Pain
McKenzie method for Sciatica & Herniated Disc

Pete Egoscue’s method

Pete is a physiologist and sports injury consultant to some of today’s top athletes. The Egoscue Method has an astounding 95 percent success rate. The Egoscue’s method is basically is a series of exercises and stretches called E-cises which provide long lasting relief for Lower back pain, hip problems, sciatica, and bad knees, Carpal tunnel syndrome, some forms of arthritis, and numerous other ailments. The Egoscue’s method has exercises to provide relief to any aching body part: lower back, hips, knees, ankle, etc.

You can read about Pete Egoscue’s method in this book: https://www.amazon.com/Pain-Free-Revolutionary-Stopping-Chronic/dp/0553379887/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=pain+free&qid=1598957252&sr=8-1

Below are some videos from The Egoscue Clinic of Austin demonstrating Pete Egoscue’s method

Additional Extension and rotation back stretches to help loosen your back and relieve pressure

This video by Doctor Jo will show some back extension and rotation stretches. If you are having low back pain, or if you have been diagnosed with a herniated disc or bulging disc, these stretches will help relieve the pain.

This video from the HASfit tribe provides a 20 minute Lower Back Pain Exercises Workout

Improve your posture

Just correcting your posture and being conscious of it while sitting, standing, walking, driving, lifting weights will give long lasting relief.

Esther Gokhale’s natural posture solution https://www.amazon.com/Steps-Pain-Free-Back-Solutions-Shoulder/dp/0979303605/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=esther+gokhale&qid=1598957638&sr=8-2 is very effective and comprehensive. The Gokhale Method uses healthy posture and movement to help you restore your structural integrity and regain a pain-free life. It addresses the root cause of most muscle and joint pain, because you have a right to a pain-free back, neck, hips, knees, feet. We will publish another blog on posture correction and Gokhale’s method soon.

Believe that that the Human body is designed to heal and maintain its health.

There are several myths about back pain, the most common being that you’ll have to stop some physical activities that you may enjoy doing such as playing soccer or golf. Realize that back pain does not mean you will have to stop physical activity and avoid playing or running in the long run. Human body has an awesome ability to heal. With some effort and commitment, you can become pain free and restore normal functioning of your muscles and joints.

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