Exercise for Back Pain: Isometric, Isotonic, and Isokinetic

The experience of back pain and reduced activity can slowly lead to a downhill spiral, if you don't come up with a plan between you and your doctor to eventually resume healthy exercise. First, you may begin to experience back pain and associated stiffness. Then, you may elect bed rest or reduced activity to try to give your achy muscles and back a chance to heal properly. In some instances, the extra rest may help your back problem, and in others, reduced activity may only serve to decrease your level of fitness and strength of the muscles that support your spine. Generally speaking, people should not go long periods of time with no exercise at all, and people should consult with their doctor as to what types of exercises would be good for their back and overall health, given the condition they are in.

A balanced and diverse exercise program should include three types of exercises.
  1. Range of motion exercise to maintain and improve flexibility and range of motion. Range of motion exercises involving swaying, bending, and stretching. People who do range of motion exercise should not do them with a cold body or cold muscles. Cold muscles may be prone to pulls and strains. So you should some light activities such as walking before beginning your these types of exercises. Some range of motion exercises include the cat and camel, calf stretch, piriformis stretch, and cervical side bends.
  2. Aerobic or endurance exercises. While exercises that improve your range of motion will be beneficial, it will also be beneficial to do exercises that exercise the whole body, burn calories, and help you to break a sweat. Aerobic or endurance exercises involved sustained use of large muscles and increase the heart rate to strengthen your heart and lungs. Aerobic exercises include the rowing machine, stair master, walking, running, swimming, aerobics, and dance. Aerobic exercises improve your heart by lowering your resting heart rate when you are not working out.
  3. Strengthening exercises. Strengthening exercises are designed to increase the strength of certain muscles and muscle groups. For back pain patients, the abdominal muscles that support your spine and your back muscles may be focused on.
    Strengthening exercises may be on of the following:
    • Isometric - exercises in which force is applied against a resistant object. An example would be your holding out both of your arms in front of you, locking your hands together, and then trying to pull your arms away from each other while maintaining the grasp of your hands. Other isometric exercises may be applied to your abdominal and core muscles to strengthen the muscles and muscle groups that are supporting your spine.
    • Isotonic - Instead of pressing or pulling against objects that oppose movement, these isotonic exercises involve using weights while doing certain exercises and movements. Isotonic exercise involves moving a constant, heavy weight through a full range of possible movement. Weight lifting is an example of this type of exercise.
    • Isokinetic - exercise in which the maximum force of which the muscle is capable may be applied through a range of motion. Exercise with a Precor, Cybex, or Nautilus machine is an example of isokinetic exercise.