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Tuesday, 01 May 2018 17:03

Lower Back Pain – 10 reasons why movement is essential to your recovery

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Lower back pain can be very debilitating and the last thing you may want to do is move! However, movement is the key ingredient to expediting your recovery from and prevention of future bouts of lower back pain. Here’s 10 reasons why:

  1. Fear avoidance and guarding – lengthens healing process
    • When we are in pain we want to avoid pain and discomfort. Seems natural. But in doing so, the muscles in our back guard up and prevent free flowing natural movement. The bigger, superficial muscles take over while the deeper, stabilising muscles turn off. If this is not corrected, the body will form maladaptive movement strategies which may lead to chronic lower back pain or other musculoskeletal injuries. Sound familiar?
  2. Physical Activity vs. Structured Exercise
    • Unstructured physical activity includes activities of daily living such as walking, sitting and standing, cooking and other housework. This differs from exercise which is planned and repetitive. Getting back to physical activity early is essential in recovery from acute lower back pain in improving blood flow and promoting local healing. Normalising movement is also essential early on to prevent chronic issues.
  3. Blood flow
    • Physical activity increases blood flow to the lumbar spine and surrounding structures which is essential for soft tissue healing. Not moving will restrict blood flow and weaken the supporting musculature, prolonging healing time.
  4. Release of hormones – endorphins
    • As well as increasing blood flow and nutrients to the soft tissues in the back, exercise increases the release of endorphins in the brain (especially aerobic exercise), which bind to opiate receptors in the pain control system in your brain to decrease your perception of pain – like how morphine and codeine work. Movement and exercise is the natural drug!
  5. Postural muscles weaken – susceptible to future injury
    • The bones in our vertebrae are not designed to withstand a lot of load for extended periods of time. This is the role of our deep ‘core’ muscles in our back and abdomen. The longer we restrict movement following a bout of back pain, the more these muscles weaken and forget how to be recruited in functional movement. This will lead to longer recovery and potentially recurring bouts of lower back pain.
  6. Changing positions to offload passive structures
    • Vertebral bones, discs and ligaments are passive structures which need to be placed in positions of mechanical advantage. By adjusting postural positions appropriately, the load can be shared away from the injured structure.
  7. Improving your function
    • Improving your function will improve your pain. Functional movement will recruit the appropriate muscles, improve blood flow and protect the spine from further damage. It will also allow your brain to maintain healthy movement patterns and avoid maladaptive strategies.
  8. Flexibility
    • Improving and maintaining range of motion, not only in your lumbar spine but also in your hips and thoracic spine, will reduce load on your lumbar spine and reduce your recovery time. Not moving will further reduce flexibility, may cause imbalances in other parts of your body and lengthen recovery time.
  9. Psychosocial factors – pain is a function of the mind!
    • The more we think movement will cause damage to our back, the more our brain will reinforce this belief by sending pain signals. Appropriate movement will not cause further damage to your back, especially in the acute stage. In fact, it’s essential that you move to show your brain that it is okay.
  10. Body of research to support movement in lower back pain recovery
    • Don’t take my word for it. There are countless clinical trials and research articles to support the necessity of returning to normal activity rather than bed rest in recovering from lower back pain.
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