The normal approach people take when trying to fix back pain is to prescribe a series of stretching and exercises. I want to go through some of the reasons why in my opinion exercises donât work as intended either.
Over the years there have been many programs designed with the aim of fixing back pain and sciatica, but those of you who have tried them will surely agree that none have been successful at providing a permanent solution for your chronic back pain, to the point where you can stop doing the exercises and the pain will stay away. Why is this? I am sure it is a question many of you are wondering.
Many of these programâs provide temporary relief because the underlying component in them is strengthening which helps protect the body from the pressure and irritation to a joint that causes inflammation and pain. But when you stop exercising the strength slowly drains away and often the cause of the pain re-surfaces, especially where its origins are located in the core muscles that you rely on in your everyday movements.
Those that have had success from doing exercise most likely started when the pain was settled because it is very hard to exercise when pain is in an acute stage due to the irritation it can cause. Those people who are constantly bothered by their pain without respite are often unable to begin an exercise program without making their back pain worse and if they do start the pain is usually enough of a reason for them not to continue.
The answer as to why the exercise programs hasnât helped you get that permanent fix is quite simple and logically as is most things to do with the body;
Chronic back pain is caused by imbalances in the muscles causing pressure to build up and irritate a joint. To give you a simple analogy, the imbalance means the muscles on one side of the body are in a different condition to the same muscles on the other side. So when you exercise both muscles together and strengthen them, they still maintain these differences and the imbalance. That is to say a tight contracted hamstring will still be tight and contracted, albeit stronger, after a period of concentrated exercise on it.
This confirms to me that problem muscles do not respond well to exercise or stretching. By problem I mean, the muscles are usually tight and often weak, have a poor blood supply and do not function to provide strength and support for the body the way they were meant to do. The nerves are not firing into the muscle the way they should. Because of the poor blood supply, the exercise, (which actually requires an increase in the volume of circulation) overloads the muscle causing it to tighten further. This is why after an exercise program a person with problem muscles will loose flexibility.
The reason the pain often goes away, along with the loss of flexibility, is because of the bodyâs ability to compensate or make allowances for the imbalances which help straighten up the pelvis and take some pressure off the spine joint, especially with an exercise program that focuses on symmetry, such as Pilates.
When this situation exists with a structural muscle, which is usually the case with chronic pain, it is more of a big deal and the body has little chance of compensating too much. The stretching that people add to try and regain the lost flexibility doesnât work. It feels like it does because it stretches the connective tissue which can lead to long term problems (see article on stretching)
Once you get into the swing of things, exercise will manage or stave off pain whilst you are doing your workout regularly but when you stop for a few weeks or longer, the lack of good circulation and tightness causes the problem muscles to deteriorate and weaken very quickly. When a muscle is very important in the everyday movement of the body and in a poor condition, it doesnât really get to the point of improving with the exercise and these are the times when exercise irritates the pain and forces a person to stop.
The best way to deal with these problem muscles so they will respond to the exercise in a positive way, and actually rehabilitate during the process, is to get the circulation working through the muscle again and restore function to the muscle before you start and in the days between the workouts. The best way of doing this is by physically working on the muscles in such a way that stimulates them back to a healthy, working condition. such as with the self treatment program I have developed for sciatica and back pain sufferers. (www.backpain.com.au/diy.htm)
Some people have problems in their body waiting to cause them pain but they never experience it because they eat well and never stop doing their workout. The exercise holds everything together and keeps forcing the circulation through the muscles and as a result they generally feel fine.
For a free book on how to treat your own back pain or sciatica and stop the frustration of wasting money on treatments that are not helping you and try a great self help technique on video at home that gives most people instant relief from their pain. Visit www.backpain.com.au/start
Steve Lockhart is the Creator of SLM Bodywork and has worked successfully treating pain and injury since 1989 in his own busy clinic. He also teaches other therapists around the world his pain relief therapy, SLM Bodywork.