Updated: Sep 2, 2021
Tips for Aging Well
Lower Back Pain
One day, I observed a physical therapist teaching a patient how to exercise while lying in bed. “Do them before you get up and begin your day, and it will help with lower back pain,” he said. That caught my attention. Who doesn’t have lower back pain now and then? (Or always-can I get an amen?) I’ve read that the two most common causes of lower back pain in seniors are osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal). I would also add ‘tight muscles’ as a good guess since we don’t walk or move enough during the day. Sometimes I get more exercise simply by getting up at night and walking to the bathroom than I get during the day. At least it seems so.
Maybe those exercises the therapist was teaching would work for me. Fast forward eleven months. The exercises are simple to do and have make a significant difference in my pain and mobility.
· For starters, draw one or both knees up to your chest by wrapping your arms under or on top of your knee(s) and hold it for thirty seconds. This one feels good.
· Next, with your knees bent and feet planted on the bed, lift one leg and put your ankle on your other thigh. Then gently press that lifted knee down and then pull it up. Switch legs. The therapist said this exercise stretches the lower back and will reduce the pain.
· Pelvic lift- With feet flat on the bed and your knees bent, lift your pelvis just a little and lower it. Eventually, you’ll want to lift the pelvis up higher and hold it while not using your leg muscles to help. It’s all about the pelvis.
· Feet together and flat on bed with knees bent and together. Roll left and right keeping your knees together. It helps to stretch your arms out and grab the edges of the mattress while you do this one.
Over time, I have included several more exercises such as raising my legs and bicycling, spreading them apart and pulling them together, rolling to the left and right with my legs still up in the air. I feel these exercises in my stomach so it must be building that washboard stomach I’ve never had.
After all that, I feel good enough to get up and do two more stretching exercises while standing alongside the bed. Once standing, I roll my hips in a large circle, right to left and left to right. Finally, I bend forward with my hands on my knees and hold it while my back stretches. When it’s comfortable, I slide my hands down my legs while still bending at the waist. Most days, I can get to my ankles. Done. Good job! All stretched out and ready to go!
Throughout the day, I continue to stretch different muscles to try to maintain some flexibility and improve overall coordination. Interestingly, the same Physical Therapist mentioned that seniors need to monitor and improve their balance, so I decided to try a heel-to-toe walk, like a sobriety test administered to motorists. Miserable failure. The officer would have hauled me away. But like so many things, the more I practiced heel-to-toe walking, the better I got and I can now do it easily which tells me―we can improve!