Physical therapy exercises for back pain not working?

February 22nd, 2024 by Jeannie Di Bon

Exercise | Pain

Almost a quarter of the world’s adult population has chronic back pain. As a movement therapist who works with people with chronic pain, I’m motivated to try and find out why that is and what can we do to help with chronic low back pain.

Are Your Physical Therapy Exercises for Back Pain Not Working?

When we first seek treatment for back pain, we are often given exercises to help which involve things like planks, superman, bear lifts, or bridges. These might all be really familiar exercises to you. In fact, if you google back pain exercises you’ll probably see these exercises.

Don’t get me wrong, these are brilliant exercises on their own. However, in my opinion, they should not be the first-line approach when you have been dealing with chronic back pain for some time.

Exercises like these are designed to stiffen the tissue. The prevailing theory is that if you stiffen the back, your pain will go away. But as you can see, with over 25% of the world’s adult population dealing with chronic back pain – they don’t seem to be working too well.

I have worked with chronic pain patients since 2008, and through this experience, I have learned that it does not work to get started at the “stiffening” level. What we actually need to be doing is softening the tissue before we get to the stability and strengthening or as some may call it – the stiffening. Our bodies need dynamic movement.

Let’s not add tension on top of tension

If you are reading this, you have probably been in pain for some time. If this pain has lasted for longer than three months, it is considered chronic. With chronic pain often comes a sensitized nervous system. Your pain signals have been ramped up, your nervous system is very vigilant looking for threats and danger. Your nervous system may not feel safe. If that’s the case, your tissue is going to respond and your tissue is going to get tighter – it may go into spasm, it will be shortening and contracting.

If you start adding in strengthening and stabilizing exercises at this point you will layer more tension on top of already tense muscles. I take a different approach with method – The Integral Movement Method. This is a novel approach to managing chronic pain. Moovlite, and specifically the Reframe Program, was created using the IMM. I have seen this approach work time and time again. My clients are getting fantastic results, reducing their pain, and getting back to the life they want to live.

The Reframe Course is my way of making this approach accessible for chronic back pain sufferers in the comfort of their own home, working at the pace their body needs.

We learn to relax the tissue and calm the nervous system down so that we can then begin to build on strength and stability from a quieter place.

I’m not saying that planks are a bad thing or that Spider-man or Superman is a bad thing. I think they’re great exercises, but they have to come at the right time.

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