The basic exercises in the previous chapter will begin to attack the source of most backaches. But as with most plans, the body is the sum of its parts and a general exercise program to increase overall body strength and cardiovascular output from the heart and lungs goes further to enhance life and freedom from pain for a back pain patient.
Many physicians who treat back pain sufferers recommend a comprehensive exercise program in addition to specific back and spinal conditioning. What sports and exercises are best? On the preferred end of the scale, the following sports and exercises are generally safe for back pain patients. Note that for the most part these activities feature CONTINUOUS motion, LOW IMPACT potential and MILD TWISTING AND TORSION to the lower back and torso:
1) Walking briskly for twenty to thirty minutes daily.
2) Bicycling with legs fully extended and minimum crouch. Be careful lower back is straight and free from "swayback" position or excess lordosis.
3) Swimming using low stress strokes such as the crawl or sidestroke rather than butterfly stroke or diving. No sprinting.
4) Rowing if allowed by a physician.
5) Stair climbing machine.
6) Cross country ski simulation machine.
Sports activities NOT generally encouraged for back pain patients normally have the potential of EXCESSIVE IMPACT OR EXCESSIVE TWISTING AND JERKING. They are also less than perfect as aerobic exercise since they are not continuous. For example, you undergo an intense burst of energy while running and batting during baseball followed by longer periods of general inactivity. The same is true of most of the other activities on the following list of activities NOT recommended:
8) Horseback riding
11) Weight lifting.
A classic runner's warmup maneuver, but invaluable as an advanced exercise for patients who can do the earlier basic exercise group without pain. Stand facing a desk, chair or low table. Place left heel of foot on edge of table or chair. Place a hand on your extended knee for balance and concentrate on keeping your back straight. Now gradually bend your right leg so that your body begins to lower. You will feel a pulling sensation in your hamstrings. Keep the extended left leg and knee straight. Be careful to slowly do this exercise and do only a few repetitions at first so you cause only a mild stretching sensation. Overdoing this one can cause a lot of pain, so experiment slowly and carefully.