I would like to admit something, I am a fully functioning back pain sufferer. Yep, that’s right, I have been dealing with back problems for about twenty years, and I can tell you it has not been a fun journey. What I would like to share with you today is my morning back pain exercise routine.
Ooooh, that sounds so incredibly fascinating, right? Well, okay, maybe not the most exciting thing you will read today, but it is really important to me and my daily battle against back pain.
Let’s go back to the year 1999. Prince wrote a song about it, we all got ready for the end of the world (Y2K for those of you who are not old enough to remember). There I was a 27-year-old young man who had always been incredibly active. I played sports all through high school and college and continued after graduating from college. Okay, at that point I was a weekend warrior, but hey it still counts.
Hey, what is that pain in my leg?
So, when I first started having pain down my right leg, I didn’t think too much of it. I continued doing all the things I loved, even if I was in some pain.
The pain continued and got worse. I went to the doctor and to make a long story short, I was put into a physical therapy program. I kept getting worse. Finally, after an MRI, my herniated disc was discovered.
We tried injections, more therapy, nothing worked. The next recommendation was to see a surgeon and discuss what I thought was a last resort, surgery. So in October 1999, I regrettably went under the knife. The surgery seemed to be a success, after a few months I was back to pretty much doing whatever I wanted to do, just like before.
Well, as the years progressed, I discovered surgery was not the cure-all it had been billed to be. In 2009 I had more problems, and by using my inversion table, after a few months time, I was all better again.
Yikes, that really hurt!
2011 was the first time I heard a “pop” in my lower back. This time, the inversion table was not the answer. Well, that is not completely true, I was never advised by my doctor how to properly use an inversion table, and this ended up making my condition worse, but that is another story for another day.
I hobbled around for 16 months, refusing to have another back surgery. Then, one day I literally woke up and the pain was gone.
Fast forward to 2015. I thought I was past my back pain problems because I was lifting more at the gym. I felt like I was helping my body, but I was doing things all wrong for a guy who had a long history of back problems. Anyway, lifting too heavy and doing stupid stuff lead to another herniated disc and a sprained SI joint.
Time for a chiropractor
This time I met with a highly recommended chiropractor. Again, I was determined not to have another surgery. I was in pretty bad shape, dealing with spinal stenosis. I walked around for months bent over at about a 30-degree angle. Life was not a whole lot of fun during this time.
I had to sleep on the couch for about 2 months because I had to stay in the seated position, I could not lay flat in my bed. These sleeping arrangements lead to a lot of sleepless nights. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but it was a rough time in my life.
Anyway, after months of chiropractic adjustments, inversion therapy and stretching, I was finally able to start on a morning back pain exercise routine. I tell you all of this so that I can share with you the things I do each and every morning, to get ready for my day.
Let’s get started
Before we get too far, I do need to let you know that I was not able to do these exercises until I had progressed to a certain point and then my doctor recommended them to me. You should absolutely check with your doctor to make sure you are able to do these before you start them.
The first thing I have to do is get my butt out of bed in the morning, which for me is no easy task. I don’t really get along so well with mornings.
Once I am upright, the first exercise I perform is what I refer to as the “Swimmer.” I lay face down on my exercise mat with my arms extended straight out in front of my body and my legs extended off the floor behind me.
The exercise works like this; I perform a swimming motion. I kick my legs up and down behind me and do a freestyle swimming motion with my arms. The video shows the details. Anyway, I do this for 5, count ‘em, 5 minutes each and every day. Okay, I occasionally take a day off, but for the most part, I do this every day.
A distraction is necessary
Since I am facing down on the ground, I set a timer, and usually turn on the morning news, just so I have a distraction. Sometimes the diversion works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I am surprised how fast that 5 minutes go, other times I just about can’t make it all the way through.
If you can only do 30 seconds to start, then start there. When I started doing these, I could just hold it for about 1 minute 30 seconds. I built all the way up to 5 minutes. This exercise works mainly the entire back side of your body, so I love it!! You get the butt, hamstrings, inner thighs, upper and lower back. That about covers most of it.
Side planks with a twist
Next up are side planks with a twist, literally a twist LOL. Start on the same floor, the same mat as before. I turn on my side with my arm (start on either side) extended to prop me up. My legs are fully extended and stacked one on top of the other.
I do 10-12 repetitions on each side of my body. One hand on the ground with arm extended, you raise the other arm up in the air, so you are like the shape of a cross. Then, keeping your hips and pelvis area stable, slowly reach your top hand underneath your body, threading the needle and then back up again. This is a great side plank exercise.
You may not be able to do the twist, given your condition but you may be able to hold the side plank. Do what is comfortable for you.
Next up, calves
Next, I do calf raises. As you will see in the video, I use the edge of the entryway in our living room to act as a step. I do this to get a little deeper stretch in my calves. I do each leg separately. With your foot on the edge, lower your heel and then raise yourself up again. I go past the level of the step I am on, but you can start out on the floor. You can also use stairs or an actual curb. If you are not stable, you can brace yourself with the wall. I do each leg 2 sets of 20 reps.
Now, what do calves have to do with back pain you ask? Well, check out this guy’s video.
Okay, so it’s not too much for a back pain exercise routine, but starting out my morning with 5 minutes of swimmers is no joke, let me tell you. Most of the time with the swimmer, I have worked up a pretty good sweat before I move on to the other exercises.
Again, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for back pain. A lot of times it can be caused by tight muscles, other times there is a more complicated issue. It took me a long time to get to the point where I was ready to do these exercises, and now I do them every day. Honestly, it gets my morning started with a little bit of exercise, and that is a good thing.