I have found, and the evidence shows, that the ‘right’ type of exercise is imperative for safe and optimal results. If a person is training to be a marathon runner, they will train differently than someone training to be a power lifter. The same thing is true if you are exercising to help your back issues. Most people have been misinformed on what to do in this regard.
Exercising a misaligned structure (like your spine/back) with strengthening exercises only helps to stabilize your mispositioned structure. This is why body builders love chiropractic care since it helps them balance their body which allows for for improved symmetry as they develop more muscle.
When a patient is in pain and wanting to do exercises to help their neck/back, my first goal, which is in the Chiropractic Oath is to “first, do no harm.” Therefore, any exercise must not irritate your condition. That is why I recommend starting with range of motion exercises before moving into other types of exercise, including strength building.
To the right I will show you the 3 stages of exercise that I recommend for patients, and below are example exercises.
Stage 1: Range of Motion Exercises
Range of motion exercises have multiple benefits that include pumping out waste product while pumping in nutrition for faster healing, pain relief, better adjustment holding, and improve nerve flow. Starting the day with range of motion exercises goes a long way in long term pain relief – plus, they are easy to do!
Stage 2: Flexibility Exercises
Flexibility exercises are for once you are feeling better. This will help unload the joints by increasing degrees of soft tissue motion before the joint structure are put under any stress. These should be done as you feel able to without irritating your condition.
Stage 3: Strengthening Exercises
This is where most people want to start, but truthfully if you do these as the third stage you will maximize your results. The goal of strengthening exercises is to create stability in weaker areas without causing irritation to those areas. These come once you are feeling confident with your range of motion and flexibility exercises.
There are many different types of exercises you can do for your core and low back. Here are some examples of great floor core stabilization exercises (try holding for 5-10 seconds, repeating 5-10 times, whatever is tolerated).
First, with the knees bent about 90° with your feet on the floor, flatten your low back against the floor by rocking your pelvis back.
On your back with hips and knees both bent 90° (like sitting in a chair on your back), straighten out the right arm and left leg simultaneously and alternate sides SLOWLY.
Lay on your stomach with your arm and legs stretched our (like “Superman” flying). Raise one arm and the opposite leg (i.e. right arm/ left leg) and slowly alternate between the other opposing pair. Make it harder by raising BOTH arms and legs at the same time! NOTE: A pillow under the waist helps.
Lay on your back with your knees bent. Lift the buttocks off the ground and push your heels into the floor. Do one leg at a time to make it more challenging.
There are three leg positions to make it progressively harder (knees bent/feet flat on floor, knees & hips both bent 90°, etc.). Lift your breast bone towards the ceiling and alternate between coming straight up and left and right trunk twists.
If no shoulder problems exist, lay sideways propped up on an elbow and lift the hips off the floor to a straight body position.
Try a quarter, half, or full squat (knee pain dependant) with or without hand weights and with or without a ball squeezed between the knees. Lunges can be substituted or added, if desired.
Kneeling on all fours, straighten out the right arm / left leg and alternate. At the same time, suck in your belly (“abdominal hollowing”) to facilitate the deep transverse abdominis and multifidus muscles. Add a dynamic component by rotating the trunk and approximating your hand to the floor / opposite leg up in the air keeping the body in a straight line.
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