Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Could Yoga be the Solution for Your Chronic Low Back Pain?

Yoga for Low Back PainIn September, we shared with you some resources on the health benefits of practicing yoga, in honor of Yoga Awareness Month. Make sure to check that resource out, as a new study has recently found that participating in weekly yoga classes is equally as effective as regular deep stretching in relieving symptoms of low back pain. The study, from which findings were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, followed over 200 people for up to 26 weeks, making it the largest study focusing on yoga’s effect on low back pain.

Of the 228 followed, subjects participated in weekly classes in which they practiced either yoga or deep stretching and also practiced the same thing at home, with the help of instructional CDs 7 DVDs for 20 minutes, at least 3 days a week. The outcomes for the group who practiced yoga and the group who practiced deep stretching in classes were compared to a “control” group, whose members were given a book with tips and best practices for relieving chronic low back pain. The results of the study showed that both yoga and deep stretching were equally as useful in easing or relieving low back pain, as long as either the yoga or stretching were practiced regularly.

Couple these results with the fact that 80% of people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives with the fact that Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain 1 and it becomes obvious that yoga could evolve to be an easy and fairly cost-effective method for alleviating chronic low back pain with potential to be as beneficial for improving pain as it is for reducing stress and improving flexibility and breathing.

Has your low back pain been improved by practicing yoga? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

What to Do When It Hurts to Exercise

Exercising with pain can be a catch-22. Certain exercises can ease arthritis pain and keep stiffened joints limber. When you exercise, you strengthen muscles that help stabilize your joints. However, if you over-exercise, or go about it the wrong way, you can further damage the joints you’re trying to protect.

As a physiatrist at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, I work with athletes who make a living being active. When they’re hurt, they need to know when it’s best to exercise through the pain, or when they need to lay off for a while so that they don’t further injure themselves. So, how do you know when to exercise through the pain and when to give yourself a break?

My rule of thumb for exercising in pain: if the pain doesn’t get worse during exercise (and stays below a 3/10 on pain scale), and if you don’t feel increased pain later that night or the next day after exercising, then it was most likely a safe form of exercise.

On the other hand, if the pain becomes severe as you’re exercising, or you have an increase in pain after exercise, you probably shouldn’t continue with that particular activity. Additionally, if you experience any painful catching/locking (especially in the knee), don’t push through the pain. If these symptoms persist, or if the pain is present at night while you’re resting, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with a physician.

Low-impact, aerobic activity is the best way to get exercise and minimize pain from orthopedic conditions. Stationary or recumbent bicycling, elliptical trainers, and swimming are great examples of low-impact ways to get your heart rate up.

Are you dealing with pain when you exercise? Are you unsure whether to work through it, or stop until you feel better? Share your experience with us. We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section below.

About Kenneth Mautner, MD


Dr. Mautner is an assistant professor of orthopedics, as well as an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, serving both Spine and Sports Medicine. In addition to being a consulting physician for the Georgia Tech Athletics, he is head team physician for Agnes Scott College and team physician for Emory University Athletics. Dr. Mautner began practicing at Emory in 2004.

Getting In Shape For Surgery

In this post, I’ll discuss the importance of “getting in shape” for surgery. When conservative nonsurgical measures fail, and we’re considering joint replacement surgery for the treatment of end stage arthritis of the hip or knee, it’s important to take measures to increase your chance of success and reduce the risk of complications. Ideally, these steps should take place well before the actual procedure, and can be compared to “training for a marathon”. Generally, we look at three things in particular: Are you close to your ideal body weight? Are you aerobically conditioned? Are you a nonsmoker? If the answer to each of these questions is yes, you’re probably an excellent candidate for surgery. If not, we suggest that you take the following steps prior to scheduling surgery:

Lose weight

Being at or close to your ideal weight enhances your chances of surgical success. (You can calculate your BMI here.) If your BMI is 30–39, you have a higher risk of complication from surgery. If your BMI is 40 or above, you may not be a candidate for surgery right now, but we have resources at Emory to support you in your weight-loss efforts. Emory Family Medicine offers weight-loss counseling services, and the Emory Bariatric Center provides both surgical and nonsurgical weight-loss options. Weight loss is among the most important steps toward improving overall health and quality of life. In most cases, weight loss will improve the pain and loss of function associated with arthritis of the hip and knee. This improvement can be significant enough to obviate the need for surgery.  If surgery is necessary, appropriate weight loss prior to surgery will dramatically reduce the risk of complications including infection and dangerous blood clots. In addition, it will speed the recovery process and help prevent future orthopedic problems.

Get active

Patients who exercise regularly tend to recover from surgery more quickly than patients who don’t. If you’re preparing for orthopedic surgery such as knee or hip replacement, weight training and cardiovascular exercise can smooth the recovery process. When your muscles and soft tissues are strong and well conditioned, they help stabilize the knee and protect the joints, helping you get moving again more quickly.

Further, if you‘ve been diagnosed with hip or knee arthritis, don’t discontinue exercise and aerobic conditioning. Exercise has been scientifically proven to improve the pain and loss of function associated with arthritis of the knee. If you aren’t currently active, you can start now by slowly introducing exercise into your schedule—even just three times a week is helpful. Choose an exercise that does not cause pain. In general, lower impact exercises such as swimming, cycling, and the elliptical machine will allow elevation of heart rate while minimizing pain associated with hip or knee arthritis. There’s no evidence that increasing activity level will cause worsening of knee arthritis.

If you need help creating an exercise plan, the physical therapists at the Emory Orthopedics & Spine Center can work with you. Having professional support and/or a partner to exercise with can make it easier to begin and stick with an exercise program.

Stop smoking

Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of complication after orthopedic surgery. If you’re a smoker, cessation from smoking for at least one month before and one month after surgery can significantly reduce the risk of complications after surgery. Smoking can inhibit bone’s ability to heal itself, slow surgical wound healing, and increase the risk of infection following surgery. Smokers also have an increased chance of having lung problems, such as pneumonia, after surgery. One study demonstrated that smoking cessation prior to and after surgery could reduce the risk of complication by more than 50%.

If you need help quitting, Emory Family Medicine offers smoking cessation counseling services.

Are you getting in shape for orthopedic surgery? We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments section below.

Thomas Bradbury, MD, is an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery. He holds clinic at Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center at Executive Park and performs surgery at Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital (EUOSH). Dr. Bradbury’s professional goal is the improvement in quality of life for patients with pain secondary to hip and knee problems. He started practicing at Emory in 2007.