caleb smith park“An early-morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” ― Henry David Thoreau
 
It’s been an uphill climb since my last post having succumbed to some serious back pain, specifically sciatica, for the past month.  So much for beginning my anticipated fitness and nutrition plan for the New Year.  On a positive note, I’m on the mend thanks to some valuable advice I received from experts in back therapy – without having to make a trip to the chiropractor…yet.  In my case, the key to healing was performing light aerobics coupled with gentle stretching. 
 
Armed with a medium weight resistance band and 5 lb. weights, I’m developing my own program incorporating the following exercises.  Before beginning any exercise routine, check with your physician first, which I did.  Second, do not push yourself to do more repetitions, lift greater weights or use more resistance than your body can comfortably tolerate.  To do so would stress the body and increase the likelihood of another injury.
 
sciaticaPain in the lower back may be caused by a number of ailments such as sciatica, lumbar herniated disc or spinal stenosis.  Be sure to obtain the correct diagnosis from your doctor.  Physical therapists and chiropractors alike agree that extension exercises or press-ups are beneficial for easing sciatica pain in the back of the legs and lower back.
 
 
The following extension/press-up exercises, recommended by Ron S. Miller, PT for Spine-Health.com, have been successful in helping ease my pain which at times, felt like someone was holding a branding iron on my lower back.

beginning liftLie on stomach (prone position), gently bring arms up – elbows on the floor, hands flat down in front.  Be sure to keep hips on the floor.

Hold position for 5 seconds at first.  Try and work up to 30 seconds per repetition with a goal of 10 repetitions.  Remember to start slowly at first to avoid injury.

When able to comfortably complete this exercise without feeling increased pain, move on to the next one.

chest lift2Once again, lie on stomach (prone position), gently lift yourself up on your hands while keeping pelvis on floor.  Be sure to keep back and hips relaxed, stretching gently.

Try and hold for 1-2 seconds then slowly lower yourself back to prone position.  Aim for 10 repetitions.

 

More advanced exercises are to strengthen the lower back muscles:

chest liftIn the prone position, clasp hands behind lower back and gently raise your head and chest, keeping eyes to the ground in front of you.  Remain low to the ground; do not try and arch up.

Hold position for 5 seconds, gradually working up to 20 seconds.  Your goal is 8-10 repetitions.

 

Another lower back strengthening exercise:

alternate lifts

In the prone position with head and chest on the floor, gently raise one arm and the opposite leg slowly off the floor.  With knee locked, raise leg about 2-3 inches off the floor and hold for 5 seconds.

Your goal is 8-10 repetitions.  As you feel stronger, try and hold position for up to 20 seconds.

Here are some strengthening exercises for your abdominal muscles which will also help to ease lower back pain:

Upper abdominal curl ups: 

upper absLie on back with knees bent, arms folded across chest and pelvis tilted to flatten back.  Curl up slowly, lifting the head and shoulders from the floor.  Hold for 2-4 seconds then gently lower back down to floor.  If necessary, place hands behind neck for support.

Your goal is 2 sets of 10 curls.

 

Lower abdominal exercises:

lower absLie on back, keeping hips on floor and raise one leg straight up 8-12 inches from the floor.  Hold for 8-10 seconds then slowly lower leg to floor.   Repeat with other leg.  If necessary, place hand under hip for support. 

Your goal is 2 sets of 10 lifts.

 

 

redhead cartoon

 In addition to the above exercises, walking, gentle aerobics and water exercises are a great way to ease lower back pain.  Again, it is imperative to contact your doctor for a diagnosis and approval of any exercise program prior to starting.  The exercises in this post are gradually helping relieve my back pain (sciatica).  I hope they will benefit you as well.

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