Walk into the office of virtually any doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist with a back pain complaint and chances are you’ll return home with the same sheet of paper they give to every patient who walks through their door. On it you’ll find various back pain exercises and stretches illustrated.
At first glance one might think following the exercises on the paper would be helpful. After all, exercise and stretching are important for recovering from issues causing back pain, right? Yes and no.
The truth is targeted corrective exercise and stretching is critical for addressing many underlying causes of back pain. But if you get the same set of generic exercises to perform as everyone else, with no direction as to which ones address your specific condition, how do you know which exercises are helpful and which are harmful?
Let’s say for sake of example you have severe lower back pain caused by a muscle imbalance between one side of your body and the other. Unless you first, know you have a muscle imbalance, and second, have identified what that imbalance is, you will be unable to effectively correct it. Following the sheet of generic exercises will have you stretching muscles which are already weak and overstretched. Then you’ll begin strengthening muscles which are already overworked and tight. End result: you will likely make your existing problem worse.
Here’s the take home lesson for today. Before you ever perform any stretching or strengthening exercise given to you for treating back pain, neck pain or sciatica, make absolutely certain it is targeting you specific condition. That means either you or your healthcare provider must first accurately identify the muscle imbalances and postural dysfunctions the exercises are intended to correct by performing a physical assessment.
If your healthcare provider cannot or will not tell you what postural dysfunctions and muscle imbalances are contributing to your back pain, do NOT perform any exercises given by them. Instead, consider conducting a Muscle Balance Therapy self assessment or find a different, more knowledgeable provider.