Such a Pain! Take Appropriate Measures to Ease Lower Back Discomfort

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Starting a little less than a year ago, I would walk my father’s miniature Schnauzer, Austin, as well as my terrier mix, Noel.  Each dog weighed about 20 pounds, walked rapidly while following their nose, and did not have strong obedience training (which means that they pulled while on the leash).  While they loved the walks, I ended up paying the ultimate price last spring with lower back pain.


    So I was very interested in a Houston Chronicle column by Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz entitled, “Back Hurt? Check Your Attitude.” The good doctors noted that people who are older than 30 years of age tend to have had or will have lower back pain due to improper posture while driving and working on computers. However, they suggest that your attitude can affect the status of your back. “What you think will happen next – healthy recovery or chronic pain – dramatically affects what will happen. The more optimistic and can-do your mind-set, the better off your back will be,” they wrote. Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen also recommend:

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    • Learning about your back and what’s going on that’s causing the pain so you can take appropriate action.
    • Exercise because strengthening muscles will protect the back. But start slowly when you start exercising and add more each day.

    Although I still have issues with my back pain, I have learned a few things that have been helpful. For instance, I had already started figuring out what was wrong with my back when I visited my massage therapist. It turns out that the left side of my body is weaker than my right side, so my back pain also has something to do with my left hip and my left thigh muscles. Therefore, I really need to start targeting strengthening exercises to these areas.

    Other lessons that I’ve learned:

    • I’ve found that lifting weights does help, but I am taking it slowly. During an exercise class, I start with some of the smaller weights and avoid being competitive with others who are lifting much more. I also concentrate on keeping a good form, including tightening my stomach muscles throughout the exercise regimen.
    • Yoga also is helping. I’ve found an old VHS tape, Back Care Yoga for Beginners, led by Rodney Yee. The exercise program is 20 minutes of stretches and poses using a chair, a mat and a strap.  I have never been flexible, and I’m finding that my flexibility has diminished as I’ve aged. The poses include downward facing dog and triangle pose, all of which are modified using the chair. I am amazed at how much better my back feels after going through this routine and am considering purchasing one of the updated videos Yee has created on yoga for back care that runs for 60 minutes.
    • I also have gotten the dogs involved in helping ease my lower back pain. They still love their walks, but I’ve started using a front harness that allows me to fasten the leash to a ring located at the dog’s chest. Because of this positioning, the dogs are no longer pulling me; instead, the harness is set up so that the dogs’ own weight is used to slow their progress.  They are no longer pulling me, which means that I can walk them more often because I’m no longer waking up in the mornings in pain.
    • Finally, I just got new cross-trainer shoes and orthotic inserts. Podiatry noted that lower back pain is at times due to an abnormal gait as opposed to direct injury or congenital problems. The abnormal gait can lead to repetitive motion injuries. However, these injuries and the gait can be addressed by using appropriate orthotic devices to eliminate the body’s compensations and to assist the body parts in functioning more correctly.

    Lower back pain isn’t fun and it can dampen the zeal for exercising. But if you do suffer from lower back pain, you need to find ways to continue your exercise regimen. In addition, check out other accommodations you can make, whether it’s a different halter for your dog or orthotics for your shoes. These devices can make a big difference in how you feel and how you move!

Published On: October 18, 2010