“Bees'll buzz, kids'll blow dandelion fuzz
And I'll be doing whatever snow does in summer” (Olaf, Frozen)
Summer. It’s the perfect time to get outside and enjoy everything that life has to offer. The sun is shining. The days are longer and everyone seems to be full of energy. Except for those that are suffering from low back pain.
For low back pain sufferers life can be lonely and isolating. The pain is so debilitating that you simply can’t see any way of even getting out of bed - let alone contemplate heading to the beach or going on a hike. Back pain can create “depression, stress, and inner rage because your body isn’t able to do what your mind wants to do”. Many who struggle with back pain hate how it limits them from being able to do the things they want to do.
Well, we have done some digging and have found five activities and accompanying stretches that can help you feel more motivated to get going this summer. It might also be comforting to know that these stretches are considered to be generally safe for lower back pain and they can actually help you go about your day with a little more flexibility and mobility.
Addressing The Chance Of Injuries
As with any type of new exercise plan, it is always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider in case there are any issues specific to your condition that might interfere with your exercise program. When it comes to summer activities, doing some yard work or going on a hike can sound like a great idea. Unfortunately these same activities can also be the very thing that causes an episode of low back pain. Research has found that four out of five adults with pulled muscles experience low back pain. When low back pain sets in it can seriously interfere with your sunny summer plans.
The Importance Of Stretching
When we suffer from low back pain, often our first instinct is to rest and to lie down on the couch and stay home all day binging the latest Netflix series. What research has found, however, is that the opposite is actually what will help us the most. Continuing to move (albeit carefully and not too intensely) is the best way to ensure that you stay mobile and it can help you heal faster. We have found that there are 5 low impact activities that you can do that will not only help with your low back pain, but that can also help you connect with friends and family, and make the most out of your summer. Netflix will still be there later - let’s get outdoors!
Swimming is one of the best low impact activities that you can do for low back pain. Swimming provides a non-weight bearing environment where you can workout these muscles with a good degree of support. The support that the water provides can reduce the stress on the joints in your body and can help support your movements so that you have a better range of motion when moving. Most swimming strokes help to keep the spine in a neutral position and reduce the possibility of hyperextension. Swimming also engages the core muscles that help support the spine. Having strong core muscles can help reduce low back pain and prevent future injuries.
If swimming isn’t your thing you could also try a water aerobics class. These classes can provide good resistance that can help strengthen the muscles, while supporting your body and slowing down movements so that you don’t pull something through a sudden, jerky movement.
Good Morning Summer! Patio Stretch
What better way to start your day than with a lovely stretch on your patio followed by a relaxing cup of coffee. Mornings are often the best time of day to workout since you haven’t been interrupted or distracted by work emergencies yet and the temperature is still quite cool. Often, when we sleep, we can end up in some crazy positions that leave us feeling like a stale pretzel when we wake up. Releasing that tension and warming up our muscles in the morning can be a great way to ensure mobility as you move throughout your day, as well as helping to reduce our chance of injury later on.
Exercises, like Good Mornings, are a great way to get the blood flowing to your muscles which can help relax them and provide them with the essential nutrients that they need in order to stay healthy.
How to do a Good Morning:
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
Keeping your back flat and your chin tucked in, bend forward and move your upper body towards the floor.
When bending you should make sure that you bend from the hips so that your hips stay stable and that just your torso is leaning forward.
Make sure that your back stays flat and does not curve.
Return to a standing position with your spine in a neutral position.
Relaxing afterwards can earn your extra bonus points for your back as mindfulness has also been shown to reduce low back pain. So go on, pour yourself that extra cup of coffee and see how it feels to start the day in a more relaxed state of mind.
Walking is a great exercise for low back pain. While current guidelines for low back pain do not mention walking, specifically, as a treatment for this condition, there is moderate research to support this type of exercise for treatment of lower back pain. One study has suggested that walking is not only easy to do, and free for everyone, but that it also helps to reduce chronic low back pain and helps improve mobility.
Just ten to fifteen minutes of walking twice a day can help to ease low back pain and improve blood flow to your muscles. Walking is a gentle way to workout and it strengthens the muscles that support your spine. You don’t have to rush out and run a 5km race. Start with a simple walk around your neighborhood or in a local park. By getting out and about you can also feel more connected both with nature, and with other people. This can help combat loneliness and feelings of depression.
Walking is a great way to get those endorphins flowing (our natural feel good hormones), improve our mood, and boost your creativity. If studies have shown that just looking at pictures of nature can increase our feelings of emotional stability and positivity, imagine what actually being outside can do!
This might seem like a bit of a stretch - especially since we just said about taking a walk around the block to get started - but bear with us. Golf can be a bit of an expensive option for many people but there are some ways to play golf without spending a fortune. Borrowing clubs from a friend and choosing to walk a public course can be a great way to test out the golfing waters. Golf is a highly social activity where you can connect with friends and hopefully all have a good laugh about your game.
As with walking, golf courses have some of the most beautiful grounds in a neighborhood and setting out to walk in such stunning surroundings can definitely be a mood-booster. Golf also gives you something to focus on so that you aren’t just thinking about walking and can break up the distance. If you are worried about carrying your clubs and further injuring your back, perhaps have everyone take turns driving one cart with everyone’s clubs so that the rest of the group can enjoy the walk without the strain.
For many people the thought of just walking can seem boring and lonely. Golf can bring the best of these worlds together and give you something to look forward to. A great stretch that you can do at golf is the Golf Ball Pick Up.
How To do the Golf Ball Pick Up:
Shift your weight slightly to one leg while you extend your other leg slightly back with your toes planted as if they were on a kickstand.
Keep your front knee slightly bent.
Keeping your back flat, and hinging from the hips, lean forwards bringing your torso towards the floor.
When you return to a standing position make sure you push through your heel.
Repeat with the other leg.
Yoga is a great way to start the day in summer. Grab your mat and head outside to get the full benefits of an open air workout. You don’t have to be an advanced yogi to reap the benefits of a good yoga session. Just a few minutes each day can help tremendously with lower back pain. Yoga typically combines physical moves with intentional breathing techniques and studies have found that this practice can help reduce pain and improve mobility and flexibility. Yoga is a type of workout that is also considered to be a form of mind and body therapy so it doesn’t just help your body physically, but it also helps relieve stress and improve your mood.
While there are many different types of yoga there are common moves between some of the different practices so don’t feel too intimidated by the name. Generally speaking, Iyengar yoga can be a good type of yoga to practice since it focuses attention on details and allows for greater modification of some poses. But there are several poses that are found in all types of yoga.
Poses like Downward-Facing Dog, or Cat-Cow can help to stretch out your spine and relieve tension. Yoga is something that pretty much everyone can do - you don’t even need a proper mat - just a towel can be helpful if you are outside. There are also varying levels so modifications can be made for those who are just starting out.
While exercise and being active can feel really scary when you are struggling with low back pain you should know that most cases are not serious and that if you have checked with your doctor that there aren’t any major red flags to your condition, you should be pretty safe to engage in some sort of low-aerobic activity.
The mental and physical benefits of engaging in some type of activity can be huge and feeling like you are connected to people again and can get some social support can make a big difference to your recovery. Pain has been linked to depression and so the more depressed we get, the worse our pain feels. Meeting new people, spending time with friends and family, and feeling like we are actually doing something that we like over the summer can get you back to normal much faster than a Netflix marathon. Which activity do you think you can do?