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  1. #1
    Registered User carbonel's Avatar
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    Gentle exercises for L4/L5/S1 DDD back pain?

    In her early 40s, my wife is suffering from severe lower back pain associated with degenerative disc disease. Her orthopedic surgeon has advised injections and physical therapy, and there may be surgery down the road. She is not able to take any anti-inflammatory pain relievers due to interactions with blood thinners, and can only take acetaminophen and muscle relaxants to control the pain.

    She is extremely worried about the fact that she cannot exercise. When she tries to walk, she ends in pain. Swimming causes pain. Running is out of the question. I've suggested that she consider some gentle weight training, but we don't know what sorts of exercises she can do that won't cause problems.

    The concern about exercise is partly related to overall health, but she is also very worried about the possibility of gaining weight. I know that I would be worried about this if I were in her situation. Does anyone have any suggestions that might be helpful to someone who desperately wants to engage in physical activity despite DDD back pain? Also, if anyone has any encouraging stories, that would be helpful as well.

    Thanks in advance for your help. She is really worried about this, and I don't know how to help.

    Just to clarify, I'm asking about cardio/strength exercises that can be done when one has DDD back pain for purposes of weight and mood control. I'm not asking about exercises/stretches that would necessarily relieve the pain, though that is always good too. Thanks!
    Last edited by carbonel; 06-16-2012 at 09:39 AM. Reason: clarifying question
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  2. #2
    Registered User weekian's Avatar
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    Sorry to hijack the thread. My wife is in a similar situation, although I'm not sure if the pain is in L4/L5 as well. However, I am more worried about the longer-term issues related to such pain as it is degenerative in nature, thus the bigger issue I am more worried about is losing spinal support, not just gaining weight. In fact when she's up to it, I would think that strengthening her back muscles is a more immediate priority than maintaining her fitness or weight.

    At its worst, my wife couldn't even clear her bowels properly because of the pain. For her case, the pain somehow mellowed and she can do light workout aerobic exercises (but experience pain thereafter, although it goes away in a few days, so I suspect it to be DOMS related)

    As your wife's problem seems quite severe and most exercises would involve spinal burden, I am really not sure if exercise is wise right now. Maybe consult a physio?

    Originally Posted by carbonel View Post
    In her early 40s, my wife is suffering from severe lower back pain associated with degenerative disc disease. Her orthopedic surgeon has advised injections and physical therapy, and there may be surgery down the road. She is not able to take any anti-inflammatory pain relievers due to interactions with blood thinners, and can only take acetaminophen and muscle relaxants to control the pain.

    She is extremely worried about the fact that she cannot exercise. When she tries to walk, she ends in pain. Swimming causes pain. Running is out of the question. I've suggested that she consider some gentle weight training, but we don't know what sorts of exercises she can do that won't cause problems.

    The concern about exercise is partly related to overall health, but she is also very worried about the possibility of gaining weight. I know that I would be worried about this if I were in her situation. Does anyone have any suggestions that might be helpful to someone who desperately wants to engage in physical activity despite DDD back pain? Also, if anyone has any encouraging stories, that would be helpful as well.

    Thanks in advance for your help. She is really worried about this, and I don't know how to help.

    Just to clarify, I'm asking about cardio/strength exercises that can be done when one has DDD back pain for purposes of weight and mood control. I'm not asking about exercises/stretches that would necessarily relieve the pain, though that is always good too. Thanks!
    thanks!

    Ken Teo
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  3. #3
    Registered User jrctherake's Avatar
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    I've had everything from S1 through L3 either replaced or fused so I will make it very simple...............go back and get second, third and even a fourth opinion before surgery.

    She should not even touch a weight until she can atleast walk without pain.

    Sorry but there is nothing else I nor anyone can say unless they are a doc and have seen her exrays/scans and are face to face with you/her.
    Last edited by jrctherake; 06-17-2012 at 12:26 AM.
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  4. #4
    Registered User jrctherake's Avatar
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    Sorry, I forgot to mention diet..............diet is important to everyone but is even more important when you have certain problems that can/will be made much worse very quick by being over weight.
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    Originally Posted by jrctherake View Post
    I've had everything from S1 through L3 either replaced or fused so I will make it very simple...............go back and get second, third and even a fourth opinion before surgery.

    She should not even touch a weight until she can atleast walk without pain.

    Sorry but there is nothing else I nor anyone can say unless they are a doc and have seen her exrays/scans and are face to face with you/her.

    This ^^^^^
    Don't push her. Forget weights until she can swim/walk. Let her listen to her body. Swimming is great. Crawl possibly better than breast stroke. Consider Pilates classes - great for strengthening the core. She would be better served doing this than weights in the next 6 months IMO.

    I find this stretch for me is amazing when I have back issues. I wouldn't do them if I was in an acute stage.

    Cobra into Childs Pose
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCJm4...e_gdata_player

    I have multi level lumbar disc degenerative changes and two disk protrusions. I live a 100% normal active life. I avoid dead lifts, two legged squats and carrying furniture.....
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  6. #6
    Registered User carbonel's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone for your feedback and helpful suggestions. I will definitely encourage her to get a second opinion.

    Just to clarify, I am *not* pushing her to exercise. It is the exact opposite. I am trying to make sure that she does not damage herself further. She wants to keep doing kick boxing, even if it is painful. I'm not some sort of shallow jerk who is pushing his wife to stay fit in the midst of a serious back problem. I'm trying to find some gentle exercises that she can pursue as an alternative to ridiculously punishing activities like kick boxing.

    Everyone is different when it comes to medical issues. Some people are extremely private and determined to make all of the decisions on their own with a minimum of outside input. In fact, my wife would probably be upset with me if she even knew that I was posting in these forums and looking for answers.

    Thanks again for the feedback and suggestions.
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  7. #7
    Registered User jrctherake's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by carbonel View Post
    Thank you everyone for your feedback and helpful suggestions. I will definitely encourage her to get a second opinion.

    Just to clarify, I am *not* pushing her to exercise. It is the exact opposite. I am trying to make sure that she does not damage herself further. She wants to keep doing kick boxing, even if it is painful. I'm not some sort of shallow jerk who is pushing his wife to stay fit in the midst of a serious back problem. I'm trying to find some gentle exercises that she can pursue as an alternative to ridiculously punishing activities like kick boxing.

    Everyone is different when it comes to medical issues. Some people are extremely private and determined to make all of the decisions on their own with a minimum of outside input. In fact, my wife would probably be upset with me if she even knew that I was posting in these forums and looking for answers.

    Thanks again for the feedback and suggestions.
    I don't think anyone took you as being a jerk. As a matter of fact I was thinking that you stepped up and tried to get help/advice on how to help your wife.

    So, no worries.

    Having said that..............back to topic.

    Stay on the search for two things.............a good doc and a good PT. One without the other is disaster in the end. <<<< is one thing I can promise.

    I wish you and her the best of luck with these issues.

    Rake
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  8. #8
    Registered User weekian's Avatar
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    Agree with Jake. You definitely didn't come across as trying to push your wife to exercise to me. Don't just depend on docs. They can give very different advice from physio. My wife's doc wants to inject her with something to speed up the spinal degeneration (yep, speed up) so that she can experience less pain. Probably because he doesn't know what else to do.
    thanks!

    Ken Teo
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    I used to have a similar situation to what you describe. In short: you are in good health, fit, no apparent physical reason for back pain and yet back pain is killing you.
    This is what I know now:
    Disc degradation means: you seem healthy, we dont really understand back pain, every body is talking about disc degradation so that must be it! (take this with a grain of salt)
    What helped me:
    There is two supports in your lower back
    One is your spine, which is equivalent to blocks and flexible joints. Have you ever seen a bridge supported by flexible joints and blocks? Eventually your spine starts to misalign.
    The other support is your internal organs. It is hard to describe how all this works. but essentially if you put a book on top of your head some of the weight of the book is supose to be supported by your spine and some by your guts. Stand up right with good posture. Put a book on top of your head now and try to push it up as far as you can (with out lifting your heels ) push the book until the last possible millimeter has been reached. You will notice that your core muscles automatically tighten when you do this. The reason is your lower back is becoming a few millimeters longer. When you do this the loads do not go through your spine instead they go through your guts. If you carry the loads through your guts and not through your spine. your spine does not misalign. The reason back pain is so difficult to get rid of is because you do not do this for 10-20 years. most likely since you are a teen. So you never get to notice it. In that time your back shortens a few millimeters and becomes very difficult to stretch it back to ideal length. You probably know how hard it is to truly stretch your hamstrings. Stretching your back is even harder. you usually do not achieve much by stretching to the sides or forwards. What you need is to increase the support that your guts give you. Ideally give yourself more support that the weight of your upper body. If you can achieve that, your back starts to stretch by itself.And it starts to realign by itself too.
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