When treating back pain, activity is #1 recommendation
Dr. Marc Bijman, BSc HK, DC
Exercises such as walking can decrease back pain by 10–50%
We’ve heard the old adage, when you have back pain: “take it easy” or “stay in bed”. Back (no pun intended) 30, 20 and even 5–10 years ago, doctors (including chiropractors) recommended bed rest for lower back pain.
This kind of advice often will not contribute to your recovery, and in many cases, can even make your back pain worse. Inactivity decreases proper food intake and mood; which can lead to physical deconditioning and weakness.
What our bodies so desperately crave is movement
Our Neanderthal ancestors didn’t sit around watching Netflix and eating delicious, sugar-filled chocolate chip cookies…they moved! So much attention is given to diet trends like the Paleo and Keto diet, so we can eat as our great ancestors did, but rarely do we talk about moving like our ancestors.
We were built to walk several kilometres per day to avoid predators, find food and perpetuate the gene pool.
I took a gander at the research, and science is behind these claims:
The multifidus, a small but powerful stabilizer muscle in your back, atrophies 4% after just one day of bed rest. Another study showed that older patients had a significant dip in muscle mass after only five days of bed rest compared to those who were active. The most exciting part of the study, those who did exercise rehabilitation post-bed rest, restored any deficits they had in lean mass, strength and protein loss, which was induced by the bed rest.
Even patients with more sinister back conditions like the dreaded ‘sciatica’ do just as well or better with a little exercise and movement vs. inactivity.
Being a Doctor of Chiropractic, I have spent many years learning about how to treat back pain.
If I could only use one skill from my 8 years of post-secondary education and work experience to help get my patients better; it would be to get them moving!
Dr. Stuart McGill, a Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, and the “godfather of lower back pain” has said that one of the most effective treatments for back pain is a short walk in the morning, afternoon and evening. After each treatment session with my patients, I always recommend 20 minutes of walking, and patients report a significant reduction in their pain levels.
Now, I need to pump the brakes a little.
Movement may be the number one recommendation for back pain, however, there are some rare instances when movement may be detrimental. Serious injuries, broken bones, falls or car accidents may warrant an examination first before movement is initiated. This is where your local chiropractor, physiotherapist, or medical doctor comes in.
They will rule out any sinister back conditions, and allow you to enjoy the benefits of movement worry-free! Sometimes movement can be as simple as a vertebrae that is stuck or a trapezius muscle fibre that isn’t firing correctly; all of which can be dealt with by your practitioner.
So, here are my top 3 movement recommendations for those with or those trying to avoid back pain:
- Bird dog exercise (Yes you heard that name right)
- Wall angels
We already know the plethora of benefits related to exercise, don’t miss out on these effects because of your pain. If you have back pain: walk, exercise within your pain tolerance, and visit your local musculoskeletal (MSK), expert!
What you said:
I first came to Equilibrium with a hip issue, and Dr. Marc was able to fix me up. I've continued to see him, and he's been so much more than a Chiropractor to me; he's been, my guardian angel I have always felt so comfortable and welcome coming in. I feel lucky to have found such a wonderful Chiropractor and always feel more myself after every session.--JC
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Dr. Marc Bijman, BSc HK, DC
Dr. Marc is a chiropractor, content creator and aspiring entrepreneur. His mission is to get you out of pain so you can do the things you love to do. In his spare time, Dr. Marc enjoys exercising, learning new things and being with others.
All information above is for your knowledge and should not be taken as clinical advice. Always talk to your local MSK expert before initiating any strategies