How Regular Exercises and Vitamin D May Cure Back Pain
This article was written by Dr. Jeffrey Gerdes of Carolina Chirocare and Rehab. Dr. Gerdes is a top-rated chiropractor in Raleigh, NC. For more information you can call the office at (919) 351-8368.
Tip #1 Exercise Regularly
Dr. Gerdes: About 25% of Americans are affected by back pain in a given year, and they spend more time at the doctor’s office for back pain than any other medical conditions with the exception of high blood pressure and diabetes. Nearly 80% of Americans will experience a back problem during their lifetime. Number one, exercise; exercise is crucial for people with lower back pain. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and combats fatigue, and can help decrease lower back pain. Exercise can help you improve your health and fitness without hurting your joints.
Exercise can strengthen your muscles around your joints, help you maintain bone strength, give you more strength and energy to get through the day, make it easier to get a good night’s sleep, make you feel better about yourself and improve your sense of well-being, and help you control your weight. Being overweight has a strong link to lower back pain. Exercising gets your joints and muscles moving. This decreases stiffness and weakness in the lower back joints and muscles that can cause people to experience lower back pain.Regular exercise increases circulation, which can lead to a decrease in pain. Arteries and blood vessels dilate and get blood circulated through them when exercising. This can pump much-needed blood and circulation into stiff, injured, or arthritic joints in the lower back and spine. Consult with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Certain high-impact exercises like running can cause an increase in lower back pain. Switch over to low-impact exercises, like swimming, cycling, yoga, or even walking if higher impact exercises increase your low back pain.
Susan: I think the tendency, when we have back pain, is to not move as much.
Dr. Gerdes: Yes, and often people will use it as a reason not to exercise, and what you want to do the opposite. Exercising can help bring down the back pain if you can just work through some of the uncomfortableness. When you’re having lower back pain, if you can work through that by starting some light exercising, it can actually decrease the pain.
Susan: It doesn’t have to be overly-strenuous, though? You’re talking about mild exercise?
Dr. Gerdes: Yes. There’s been some significant research on just the benefits of getting out and walking. You’re getting circulation. You’re getting the joints moving. It can reduce your weight, which can lead to lower back pain. You don’t have to go out and run a marathon or become a championship body builder. Even light exercise can carry some pretty significant benefits.
Susan: What else can they do from home for their back pain?
Tip # 2 Supplement Your Diet With Vitamin D
Dr. Gerdes: Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for enhancing intestinal absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. In humans, the most important compounds in this group are vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, and vitamin D2, ergocalciferol. Cholecalciferol and ergocalciferol can be ingested from the diet and from supplements. The body can also synthesize vitamin D in the skin from cholesterol when sun exposure is adequate, hence the nickname, “The sunshine vitamin Synthesis from exposure to sunlight and intake from the diet generally attribute to the maintenance of the adequate serum vitamin D concentrations. That’s vitamin D in the blood. A particularly interesting study published in Spine in January, 2003, looked at vitamin D deficiency in chronic lower back pain in Saudi Arabia. Believe it or not, a good percentage of the population, specifically women who wear burkas, do not get enough sunlight, which is your body’s main source of getting vitamin D. The study involved 360 patients, 90% women and 10% men, attending spinal and internal medicine clinics over a six-year period who have experienced lower back pain that had no obvious cause for more than six months.
The patients range in age from age 15 to 52 years old. The researchers used lab results to determine if the patients were deficient in vitamin D. Findings showed that 83% of the studied patients had an abnormally low level of vitamin D before treatment with vitamin D supplements. After treatment, clinical improvements in all symptoms were seen in all groups that had a low level of vitamin D. The study concluded that in 95% of all the patients, vitamin D deficiency is a major contributor to chronic lower back pain in areas where vitamin D deficiency is endemic.
Screening for vitamin D deficiency and treatment with supplements should be mandatory in this setting. Measurement of serum 25-(OH) cholecalciferol is a sensitive and specific detection of vitamin D deficiency and hence, for presumed osteomalacia and patients with chronic lower back pain. The Mayo Clinic reports that adults who have severe vitamin D deficiency may experience bone pain and softness as well as muscle weakness.
Osteomalacia has been found among the following people: those who are elderly and have diets low in vitamin D; those who have problems absorbing vitamin D; those with inadequate sun exposure; those who undergo stomach or intestinal surgery; those with bone disease caused by aluminum; those with chronic liver disease; and those with bone disease associated with kidney problems. Treatment for osteomalacia depends on the cause of the disease and often includes pain control and surgery as well as vitamin D and phosphate-binding agents. The good news about getting your vitamin D is that it is abundant in most parts of the world, and free. By getting small amounts of sunlight each day, one can raise their serum vitamin D levels. That’s vitamin D levels in the blood.
Susan: How much vitamin D should they need to be getting?
Dr. Gerdes: By getting small amounts of sunlight daily one can raise their vitamin D levels, otherwise consider supplementing with 1,000 to 5,000 IUs a day.
Susan: If you live in an area where you’re not getting a lot of sunlight, actual vitamin D deficiency can be a cause of back pain?
Dr. Gerdes: Yes.