If a patient has a history of heart problems, it is important for the patient to consult with not only the doctor of chiropractic but their primary care physician to be certain that they can tolerate cardiovascular fitness-promoting activities.
Cardiovascular and strengthening exercises combined with chiropractic care are important in the management of low back pain. Specific instructions are given by the chiropractor with respect to proper exercise for the patient’s condition before beginning any exercise program. In general, a reasonable amount of exercise that is performed daily and utilizes activities that are enjoyed is recommended for patients undergoing chiropractic treatment.
Many studies have reported the importance of exercises in managing acute and chronic low back pain, strengthening the low back, preventing and keeping back patients working, and to improve quality of life. The strength of the abdominal muscles was also found to be able to differentiate between those with vs. without chronic LBP. Overall and when combined with chiropractic care, aerobic exercise helps promote proper digestion, keeps the muscles in proper tone and promotes better circulation. Walking briskly around the block at least once or twice is a convenient and popular activity. Also, many forms of work and/or household tasks can function as an exercise program. The important point is to exercise!
There are many applicable back exercises that are available for patients also undergoing chiropractic care for lower back pain. The physician or physical therapist can classify the chiropractic patient into a flexion or extension biased category to determine the variety that is best for that patient and recommend specific exercises to be completed at home.
- If a patient feels best when bending over (flexion biased), exercises that promote low back flexion such as pulling the knees to the chest, posterior pelvic tilts, bending forward from a sitting position and others are usually helpful.
- If a patient is least symptomatic in extension, especially if leg pain centralizes or diminishes (extension biased), prone press-up type exercises usually yield the best results.
Other exercises that can help reduce lower back pain include:
- Strengthening of the pelvic stabilizing muscles (trunk muscles)
- Stretching of the hamstrings, adductors, and other overly short or tight postural muscles
- Proprioceptive or balance promoting.According to the Scientific Commission of the Council on Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters (CCGPP):
- Strong evidence supports exercise as being at least as effective as other non-surgical treatments for chronic low back pain
- Moderate evidence supports use of a graded-activity exercise program in occupational settings for subacute lower back pain
- Some evidence shows that exercises are no more effective than other nonsurgical treatments for acute lower back pain.
As with any chiropractic treatment, it is important for chiropractors to perform a focused reevaluation of an exercise program following its initial therapeutic trial to determine its effectiveness. Using spinal range of motion as a measurement of the effectiveness of exercise is just one way in which chiropractors can make such determinations.