As an Osteopath, my clients often ask me what the best exercise for lower back pain is.
Should I do yoga? What about swimming? I have heard Pilates is the best exercise for lower back pain.
When talking to individuals about exercise for lower back pain, my answer will always depend on their presenting symptoms. However, there is an exercise I recommend to all my clients with lower back pain.
What is the best exercise for lower back pain?
Before I tell you what I consider what the best let’s discuss the pros and cons of the different choices.
I am a huge fan of yoga. It has been shown to have many health benefits. Yoga helps to strengthen core muscles and increases flexibility which is key to preventing lower back pain.
In my opinion, yoga is one of the most physically demanding exercises I have tried. It seems to work every muscle in your body. It appears that if you have a physical weakness, then yoga will expose it.
On this note, I have observed that a number of my yoga teachers have lower back issues. Because of this observation, I do not think yoga causes lower back pain. Rather I believe that yoga highlights that somebody has an underlying reason why they developed lower back pain. For one of my instructors who I am treating the cause of lower back pain was her irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Once we started to help her IBS, her owner back pain improved.
I need a community to motivate me to exercise. I am not a big fan of doing exercise on your own. I never give tasks to people because they rarely find the time or motivation to do them. Yoga classes have a double benefit of exercise and the healing properties of a community.
I have never been a strong swimmer, so I have never enjoyed it as an exercise. In fact, whether you enjoy doing an exercise is an important factor to consider when choosing the best one you if you have lower back pain. You are more likely to do it if you like it!
Just like yoga, it is an all body exercise which could represent a problem. However, at the same time it is non-weight bearing so is less physically demanding.
Swimming lacks the benefits of community. A good compromise might be aquaerobics that a group setting.
My biggest reservation about swimming is to do with pool water. Unless you have a nearby lake or fresh water pool most people are restricted to using chlorinated public pools. We use Chlorine for its antibacterial properties. However, although it helps to kill bacteria in the pool, it is harmful to our bacteria or microbiome.
A large proportion of my Ottawa clients enjoys cycling. In the summer some cycle to work.
For somebody who has lower back pain cycling is an excellent form of exercise because it is non-weight bearing.
Like swimming most people cycle on their own so motivation can be an issue.
Cycling is also dependent on the weather. And in the winter only a few brave Ottawans are seen on their bike.
Walking is probably the oldest form of exercise known to man. It requires no special equipment or facilities. You can do it virtually anywhere and at any time of the year.
It requires no special equipment or facilities. You can do it almost anywhere and at any time of the year.
You can do it almost anywhere and at any time of the year.
Living in the country, I do less walking than I did in town because I have to drive everywhere. Hence for myself, there is a motivation issue.
Owning a dog would be motivation. However, I am not sure my five cats would appreciate the gesture.
If you do live in town then walking is the perfect exercise. Especially if you live close enough to walk to work.
The best exercise for lower back pain
The above four forms of exercise are the ones I consider the most for people with lower back pain. Is there a best exercise for lower back pain for you? The answer is yes, but it is dependent on a few key factors including enjoyment, motivation and community. The most popular exercise I prescribe for people with lower back pain is walking but would not recommend it to myself because it does not fit with me.
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