Q. I have a problem with back pain but want to stay in good shape. Are there types of exercise that I can do without straining my back?
A. There are many different causes of low back pain with associated discomfort varying by movement and depending on the underlying disorder. Therefore, as with any exercise program, you should check with your physician first to make sure you’re not performing exercises that may be harmful in your particular situation. However, conditioning of the lumbar spine (low back) is very similar to that of other areas in that your focus should be on range of motion and strengthening the associated muscles. This area is known as your “core” and consists of the region between your chest and your thighs. Even though your spine has bones, discs, and ligaments that provide primary stability, your surrounding core muscles provide a very important and often overlooked back-up mechanism for spine protection. When many think of their core, they imagine washboard abs, but in reality, the majority of your core muscles lie deep within your body, attaching to and overlying your spine and pelvis. Unfortunately, given the prevalence of obesity and sedentary lifestyles in today’s society, we create a “double whammy” in regard to our spine. Working your core takes some practice and direction, and therefore I would recommend consulting a physical therapist and/or personal trainer to help you focus on these specific muscles.
L. Shay Richardson, M.D.
Center for Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics
7480 Ziegler Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421