The low back pain you used to get on the rare occasion would go away on its’ own. You used to be able to carry on and work through your low back pain. It never interfered with your hobbies, work, family life, or physical activities like it is right now. Now your low back pain isn’t going away. It’s become chronic. Now it’s become a major annoyance and it’s preventing you from enjoying life. You sit all day at your desk and even that hurts. And perhaps that’s the issue? Maybe you need to move more and get more exercise? In this article, we will discuss how exercise helps chronic low back pain.
Although there are many causes of chronic low back pain, one of the most common causes would be sitting all day at a desk. (1, 2, 3, 4) Prolonged sitting, hunched over in a chair, day after day, stiffens up your spine. This chronic stress creates tension in your nerves, muscles and joints around your spine and it builds up to the point where you can get low back pain.
If sitting all day and lack of movement is a risk factor for getting chronic low back pain, wouldn’t it make sense to sit less, move and exercise more to prevent and manage low back pain?
Most patients I see who have chronic low back pain sit for long periods of time (6-8 hours a day) at a desk. Although chiropractic care is effective in reducing tension in the spine, nervous system, and muscles, many patients need some extra coaching on what else they can do to help their chronic low back pain.
Exercise has been found to be effective in treating chronic low back pain. (5, 6, 7) While it is unlikely there is one specific exercise that is the best for treating chronic low back pain, Pilates, resistance training, stabilization/motor control training (examples), and aerobic exercise are all effective therapies. (8)
Exercise has been found to be effective in treating chronic low back pain.
I will echo the above findings. After many years of helping patients deal with their chronic low back pain I can tell you when patients add something like exercise to improve their health, they get less low back pain.
How much exercise should you do?
If you sit a lot at work and do not exercise regularly outside of your work hours, my recommendation would be to start off slowly and do light exercise. This means start standing more at work, walk more, take the stairs as opposed to the elevator, do some gardening, housework, and cycling. Find an exercise you enjoy so you will be more likely to stick with it.
Find an exercise you enjoy so you will be more likely to stick with it.
Start off doing 20 minutes of light exercise three times per week. Over time extend the times, number of days, and increase the intensity. Work up to the following:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week (like jogging, yoga, or dancing); or,
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week (like running, Zumba, or playing sports); or,
- 30 minutes of highest-intensity exercise per week (like sprinting, jumping rope, or resistance training)
Solving chronic low back pain requires you to become active in your care. Start moving, exercising more, and sitting less.
Now I would like to hear from you. How have you noticed your low back pain gets better when you exercise?