Would it help if I did some exercises to strengthen my arms and legs?

Q: I hurt my back at work several months ago. It still bothers me off and on. I do a lot of lifting and climbing. Would it help if I did some exercises to strengthen my arms and legs?

A: Exercise is usually always a good idea with chronic back pain. Strength training for the arms and legs sounds like it might help with your overall job tasks. As far as the back goes, whenever possible your exercise program should be based on what's wrong.

For example, exercises for joint pain are different from exercises for a disc problem.
In many cases of low back pain (LBP), strengthening the abdominal muscles is a good idea. A recent study looked at how and when the abdominal muscles contract when a person with LBP moves the legs.

They found the deep abdominal muscle (transverse abdominis) doesn't contract fully or soon enough with leg movement in adults with LBP. Other studies have shown similar problems with abdominal muscle control during arm and leg movements.

It's not clear yet exactly what kind of exercise program will work the best to retrain the TrP yet. More studies are needed. We do know activity and exercise in general is the best treatment for chronic low back pain. If you are unsure what to do, check with your doctor or a physiotherapist.

Paulo H. Ferreira, MSc, et al. Changes in Recruitment of the Abdominal Muscles in People with Low Back Pain. In Spine. November 15, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 22. Pp. 2560-2566.

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