Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic (the pain can easily be resolved with lower back exercises) meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). Specifically lower back pain, which is the most common cause of job-related disability and a driving force to missed work days can make exercising difficult.
A survey conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke showed that more than a quarter of U.S. adults reported that they were unable to exercise due to low back pain lasting for 3 months.
Low back pain affects men and women ranging in intensity from a mild, persistent pain to an abrupt, intense sensation that may leave the patient disabled. Pain may start suddenly because of a trauma or improper lifting, or it can amplify over time from age-related wear and tear in the spine. Additionally, sedentary lifestyles can exacerbate low back pain, particularly when the patient’s daily routine of too little exercise is interrupted by a weekend workout or no workout at all.
Maybe you’re asking how can I make my lower back stronger? What lower back exercises should I avoid with lower back pain? And, of course, what are the best exercises to relieve low back pain?
With these five simple steps, you can manage your low back pain while bridging the gap between hurting and healing.
Low back pain is frequently caused by over- or underuse of the muscles in the back, stomach, hips, thighs, and neck. If you’re looking to target that achy and tight lower back, Harvard Health suggests stretching before you do anything.
This opens up your back and strengthens your muscles. For lower back relief, stretch daily or as often as possible. Breathe deeply in and out of your nose while doing your stretching poses and lower back exercises.
Neutral Spine Loading
Neutral spine is the natural position of our spine when all three curves of the spine — cervical (neck), thoracic (middle), and lumbar (lower) — are present and in proper spinal alignment. This is the strongest position for the spine when standing, sitting, or even moving. Looking at the back or front of your body, a neutral spine position means that the 33 vertebrae in your spinal column are completely vertical.
There’s a basic pose to help you find your neutral spine position. You lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You want to ensure that your legs are parallel with your heels, toes, knees, and hips — all in one line. Then, let your arms rest at your sides.
Be sure that as you do this pose, your shoulders, neck, and legs are relaxed and not moving. The trick here is to maintain this spinal position as you begin your exercise routine.
A Strong Core is a Strong Back
If your muscles surrounding the spine are weak, the vertebrae and discs of your spine will not be accurately supported. Our lower backs are supposed to have a forward curve to it, however, weak core muscles will make this position difficult, resulting in pain throughout the surrounding muscles and tendons of the lower back. There are specific exercises to relieve lower back pain. Wall sits can help strengthen your core, therefore, strengthening your back too.
To start a wall sit, you want to stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall, then lean back until your back is flat against it. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold for a count of 10, then carefully slide back up the wall. You want to repeat this 8 to 12 times.
Skip the Sit-Ups
When your hip flexors are too tight or even too strong, they pull on your lower spine, which may be why you are experiencing lower back pain. Plank exercises recruit a better balance of muscles on the front, sides, and back of the body during exercise rather than doing sit-ups, which target just a few muscles.
To do a plank, you plant your hands directly under your shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder-width apart) like you’re about to do a push-up (but don’t). Then, ground your toes into the floor while squeezing your glutes to stabilize your body. After, neutralize your neck and spine by staring at a spot on the floor about a foot past your hands. Your head should be in line with your back. You want to hold this position for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable, you may hold your plank as long as possible without discrediting your form or breathing.
Don’t be a Weekend Warrior
Low back pain is most common in patients who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not accurately support the spine causing your low back pain.
“Weekend warriors” — those who work out a lot over a short period of time following a sedentary lifestyle during the week — are more likely to experience painful back injuries as compared to those who make exercise a daily habit. Research illustrates that low-impact aerobic activity is helpful for supporting healthy intervertebral discs.
Most cases of lower back pain gradually get better over time — roughly six weeks — however, some people still have pain even after a year. If you want to turn your painful present into a pain-free future, consider these five tips on lower back pain exercises for pain relief and injury prevention. Because when it comes to lower back pain, an ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure.
About the Author:
Macey Bernstein is a content specialist for BackerNation, a digital therapeutics platform for back pain and spine conditions. The platform combines artificial intelligence, tele-medicine, and digital health to empower back pain warriors with powerful tools to recover, manage and actually overcome related back and spine issues.
Bernstein has a passion for crafting useful and actionable content that improves the lives of her audience. She is a dedicated reporter with a nose for news, a love for community, and a reputation for impeccable ethics. From writing press releases and legal briefs to event planning and execution she displays exceptional skill in journalism and creative direction. Macey is a graduate of the West Virginia University School of Journalism with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and public relations.