Health care providers will tell you that low back pain is one of the most common complaints from their patients. An estimated eight out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain can feel different for each person, ranging from mild to severe, and it can stem from a number of sources. Although severity and causes may vary, there are two main types of low back pain:
For those suffering from low back pain, lumbar exercises may help. Lumbar exercises focus on back flexibility and strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen, lower back, and hips to improve pain and restore function. Back pain caused by disk, muscle, or joint strain often responds well to lumbar exercises, according to Matt Ruskay, PT, MS, OCS, facility director and physical therapist at UPMC Centers for Rehab Services’ White Oak location.
“You can think of your core as kind of a ‘muscular brace,’ and strengthening your core can help the muscles’ ability to decrease stress across the lower back,” Matt says.
But be cautious: exercises that may be helpful for one condition could aggravate another. If you have low back pain, it’s important to consult your doctor or a physical therapist, who can assess each incidence of low back pain, and develop a program that is right for you.
“There really is no ‘one size fits all’ with regard to a low back pain exercise program,” Matt says. “The therapist’s evaluation will determine what approach to use to get the most effective results.”
Physical therapists suggest lumbar exercises as a way not only relieve back pain but also to decrease the likelihood of future strains by using movement and postural strategies that can be continued outside of your therapy sessions.
“Our goal is to teach patients to self-manage their pain with exercises that are designed to help improve their function,” Matt says. “That is the goal in between therapy sessions and, ultimately, the goal for when they are done with therapy. Successful self-management is the key.”
Learn more about relief for acute low back pain.