What to do when your exercises are painful

Low back pain and Mckenzie Exercises from. your chiropractor

As a chiropractor, most people expect my treatment to involve some sort of spinal adjustments. But what may people don't realize, is almost everyone who comes into my office also receives an exercise prescription from my training in the Mckenzie method to go home with.  This helps people recover more quickly. But sometimes, these Mckenie exercises are painful.  In this video, we go over the guidelines so our patients know when they should stop those exercises, and when pain is just a speedbump on the way to recovery.

As an overview, it is important to know that pain DURING your exercises is a lot different than pain that worsens and remains worse AFTER your exercises. Pain during your exercises may be due to sensitized tissues due to a variety of low back or neck injuries, like bulging or herniated discs, spondylolisthesis, muscle strains, or sciatica. However, if we have chosen the correct exercise for you, this pain should get less and less intense as you do more repetitions. But pain that gets worse during your MDT exercise and REMAINS WORSE after may signal that the exercises are actually slowing recovery from or worsening your injury, and this is a good time to re-evaluate the home exercise program. 

Secondly, when Mckenzie end range loading exercises are appropriate, there will most often be stiffness in the injured joint.  So if the exercise is creating pain during movement, but movement is getting easier and your range of motion is improving as you do more of the exercise, it is often a sign that the injury is actually improving. If the opposite is true, and the exercise we recommend is making you more and more stiff, it would be prudent to return to the office to re-assess the next steps. 

Lastly, WHERE you feel the pain is markedly important. Spinal pains often have referral patterns, ranging from painful right over the center of the spine to pain that can travel into your extremities, such as sciatica pains traveling down your leg or carpal tunnel like symptoms going into your hand.  Anytime spinal problems present with these peripheral pains, centralization of symptoms is the ultimate goal. Research shows if we can centralize pain, even if it just started out in your left low back and centralized into the area right over your lumbar spine, you have incredible odds of a full recovery if you continue that one simple exercise. However, if our exercises ever create peripheralizing symptoms, that should be taken as a sign that we are not achieving the results we want, and the exercise program should be stopped and re-evaluated to see if a different exercise can reach the same goal. 

We hope this helps guide you through your home exercise routine. These changes aren't forever, so the more you can keep up with them during your treatment, the less overall treatment you will need in our office.  As always, if questions remain, please reach out to our office directly. 

Author
Dr. Todd Peterson, DC, Cert MDT. Dr. Todd Peterson Dr. Todd Peterson is a chiropractor and certified provider for Mechanical Diagnosis & Therapy (MDT, aka the McKenzie Method). Dr. Peterson played football at the University of Nebraska, where he was a 4 year letter winner and Academic All American. He briefly played professional football in 2009 before returning to Chiropractic School in 2010. He earned his doctor of chiropractic (DC) degree from National University of Health Sciences in 2013, graduating with Magna Cum Laude honors.

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