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Back exercises can relieve those aches, pains

Legacy doctor offers simple steps to back health

By Rob Cullivan
staff writer

Do you want to put back pain behind you? If so, Kate Morris, doctor of physical therapy at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham, has a wealth of tips to help you feel better.

Morris says her work uses a wide range of techniques including ultrasound, massage, mobilization and education about posture and body mechanics.

“Most importantly,” she says, “we develop an individualized exercise program to improve strength, core stability and flexibility. We teach and educate specific exercises to improve back stability while doing functional activities for home, work and leisure activities.”

Morris says weak muscles are often the root cause of lower back pain, although other causes include arthritis, muscle strain and disc herniation.

“Muscles of the back, stomach and buttock all support the spine; these are your core muscles,” she says. “When they are weak your back is not as protected and it can be injured with everyday activity. A proper lifting technique involves using your legs; if your legs are weak, you are more likely to use your back muscles.” Morris shared these simple exercises to relieve back pain.

• Hamstring stretch: Sit with your back straight. Extend one leg so that knee is straight. Slowly bend at your hips until a light stretch is felt in the back your thigh. Make sure to keep your back straight!

• Transverse abdominal strengthening: Draw your belly button towards your spine and tighten your stomach; be careful not to hold your breath.

• Wall squat: Stand with your back against a wall with your feet about 2 feet away from the wall. Draw your belly button towards your spine, keeping your stomach tight; slowly bend your knees and squat down and slowly raise up.

• Pelvic tilt: Lay on your back with your knees bent. Rotate your pelvis to flatten your lower back against the bed/floor. Slowly relax.

• Single knee to chest: Lay on your back and slowly bring one knee to your chest until a light stretch is felt.

Daily routine Morris advises using lumbar support when sitting.

“An easy method is using a towel that has been rolled up and placing the towel in the curve of your lower spine,” she says. Proper sleeping positions are also important to support your lumbar spine.

“Use a small pillow under your knees while sleeping on your back and a small pillow in between your knees if you are sleeping on your side,” she says. “Try to avoid sleeping on your belly.”

It’s important not to let fear of pain keep you from trying gentle activity, Morris says.

“Once the acute pain is gone, people should try simple, light exercises and gradually increase their activity,” she says. “Being inactive due to pain may lead to loss of flexibility and strength and may increase your back pain more.”

Diet While no diet will relieve your back pain overnight, eating a well balanced diet with lean protein, fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates will give your body the nutrients it will need to repair itself, Morris says. In addition, a well balanced diet will help you maintain a healthy weight, which decreases stresses placed on your lumbar spine.

Breathing Deep breathing, using your diaphragm, relaxes you and decreases painful muscle spasms, Morris says.

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