A review of eight studies involving more than 300 chronic back pain patients found that aerobic exercise may be effective in helping to relieve both pain and disability. See more on the review at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
Exercise that taxes the heart and lungs – cardiovascular/aerobic exercise – helps to improve blood circulation and oxygen use throughout the body. Blood carries nutrients and oxygen to the various tissues of the body, which helps keep them strong and repairs them when they are injured. For people with injuries to ligaments, muscles or the spine, aerobic exercise may help tissues recover. Many people with back pain, however, don’t actually have any detectable tissue damage; in this case, it is theorized that the brain misinterprets innocuous signals as pain signals, resulting in chronic pain. These individuals may benefit from the endorphins (the body’s natural pain killers) released when we exercise.
Getting more cardiovascular exercise is easier in the spring and summer for many of us than in the colder seasons that are now upon us. While a gym membership may be enticing to some, many people would prefer to find a way to get their dose of cardio from the comfort of their own homes. There are several approaches people can take:
There is a vast array of machines available to people interested in home exercise, including:
• Stepper Machines
• Exercise Bikes
The nice thing about machines is that they generally allow the user to do other things while exercising, like watching TV or reading a book. However, if you’re doing moderate- to high-intensity cardio, your concentration levels may be affected.
Machines range in features and in price. The best machines allow you to keep track of mileage and calories burned. Prices vary from around $50 to upwards of $400.
Youtube is a fantastic resource for thousands of exercise videos. Those looking to maintain a home exercise program may do well to pick several videos to have on hand so that their routine doesn’t get too stale.
Circuit training may be the way to go for people with back pain, since they can break up their cardio bursts with core exercises. Tabata is a good form of cardio for circuit training – it involves high-intensity cardio in 20-second blasts with 10-second breaks in between, and spans a period of four minutes. Once you get used to doing one four-minute round, you can follow it up with core exercises, then do another round.
You can keep Tabata interesting by changing up the exercises you do during the 20-second blasts. Check out www.youtube.com for a sample routine.
Cardio is likely an important component of a back pain exercise plan. Patients should consult with a doctor or physical therapist before doing specific exercises in case certain movements are ruled out due to the cause (if it is known) of their pain. Whatever method you choose, the important thing is to keep moving. This will not only help your back, but your overall health as well.