Many people suffer from lower back pain in silence which if left unattended can lead to severe complications.
The pain, ranging from a dull ache to a stinging sensation, is often a result of injury to a muscle (strain) or ligament (sprain) and is due to prolonged sitting in a poor posture or lying down in a wrong position.
Often wished away by many people, the burning pain can easily spread down to the legs or worsen with bending, twisting, lifting, standing, or walking because of muscle spasms and tightness.
However, fitness trainer Ramadhan Okutoyi says that lower back pain can be relieved through a simple workout.
He explains that an exercise as simple as stretching can do away with the pain as it leads to muscle flexibility needed to maintain a range of motions.
Mr Okutoyi says that stretching is a workout that involves flexing tendons and muscles in the body resulting in a comfortable muscle tone.
This focuses on the hamstrings, quadriceps and muscles in the lower back keeping the muscles strong.
“Lower back pain is as a result of muscles becoming short and tight, leading to pain while carrying out activities as the muscles become weak and unable to extend during certain activities. This predisposes one at risk of joint pains and strains and even muscle damage,” he explains.
The Muscle Health and Fitness Centre trainer explains that stretching comes in different forms ranging from active stretching, passive stretching, dynamic stretching and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching.
Active stretching involves actively moving and engaging one muscle group to stretch another while exclusively utilising muscles within the group targeted. This can be the lateral muscles, lumbar (lower back) muscles, or quadriceps.
While doing the exercise, the muscles performing the workout are lengthened while the opposite muscles are contracted. Passive stretching involves holding a position or a pose with gravity or by hand, for instance, bending at your waist to touch your toes holding the position for some seconds targeting your hamstrings.
“This works on one's balance, core muscles and quadriceps as well as the lower back muscles.”
For dynamic stretching, one swings the targeted body part in lively stretches that rely on a range of motions repeatedly in a controlled and deliberate manner.
“An example is doing a hamstring stretch where your leg is swung upward in a kick through its range of motion,” Mr Okutoyi explains.
He adds that PNF is a more advanced form of flexibility training involving both the stretching and contracting of the targeted muscle group by increasing the length of the muscle and increasing neuromuscular efficiency.
It leads to improved muscle flexibility, increase in range of motion as well as muscular strength and is commonly used in sports and hospital set-ups to enhance functions such as dancing, jumping, running and walking.
“This is mostly used by physiotherapists to promote restoration of weakened and injured muscles,” he says.
Overall, stretching decreases muscle stiffness while increasing the range of motion. It also improves the flexibility of muscles reducing risks of injuries during sudden movements. Further, it leads to improved posture as it restores bent backs by toning lower back muscles, shoulder and chest muscles keeping the back in perfect alignment decreasing the risk of lower back pains.
“This workout also reduces muscular tension enhancing muscular relaxation. Stretching also helps improve blood circulation in the body,” adds the trainer.
Additionally, stretching improves mechanical efficiency and overall functions of the body as flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wide range of motions. It also reduces feelings of stress as well-stretched muscles hold less tension.
Mr Okutoyi adds that stretching does not only aid in the physical aspects of the body as it also has mental benefits.
He says exercising is known for releasing endorphins, feel-good hormones, which interact with receptors in the brain reducing the perception of pain.
“The hormones trigger a positive feeling in the body helping in reducing pain as well as enhancing moods,” he says.
He, however, warns that one should not get involved in stretching exercises if they have had a bone fracture or sprain, suffered from any limited range of motion issues, joint or bone infection, inflammation, or osteoporosis —a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both.