Back pain is a very common ailment. So it’s no surprise that, as chiropractors, we’re often asked, “What can I do to relieve my lower back pain?”
Luckily, there are some helpful exercises that can help counteract the problems and behaviors that lead to lower back pain.
Here are the top five lower back pain exercises we recommend. If you experience pain while doing any of them, stop immediately and seek medical advice.
1. Back extensions
If you’ve ever done yoga, you might know this one as “cobra pose.” Back extensions stretch the spine and can help relieve back pain.
Just lie on your stomach and prop yourself up on your elbows. Try to keep your neck long and shoulders back — this will help lengthen your spine.
Push down on the floor with your hands to push your back up as far as feels comfortable. You’ll also feel a stretch in the stomach muscles. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds while breathing normally. Repeat the exercise 10 times.
2. Abdominal contractions
Lie on your back and bend your knees. Keep your feet hip-width apart. Try to relax your body, especially the neck and shoulders.
When you exhale, draw the muscles of your pelvis and lower abdominals upward. Hold this gentle contraction, but continue to breathe from your abdomen. After five to 10 breaths, relax your muscles. Repeat five times.
You can also try some mild partial crunches for a more intense workout. Just avoid overdoing it with something like sit-ups, so you don’t aggravate your existing back pain.
3. Bridge pose
Bridge pose can do a great job of relieving lower back pain.
Lie on your back with knees bent, your feet hip-width apart. Inhale, and as you exhale, lift your hips off the floor. Try to get your shoulders and knees in a straight line. To avoid overarching, tighten your abdominal muscles during the pose. Lower to the ground as you breathe.
As you build strength and flexibility, you can increase your repetitions. The Mayo Clinic recommends doing this exercise five times a day.
4. Lower back rotation
This rotation will stretch out your spine and help relieve lower back pain.
Lie down on your back and keep your knees bent. Relax your upper body. Roll your knees to one side, then your pelvis. Try to keep both shoulder blades on the floor. Turn your gaze over the opposite shoulder.
After 10 seconds, return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do the stretch two or three times on each side.
5. Exercise ball
If you’re ready to increase the intensity of your lower back exercises, use an exercise (or swiss) ball.
The AAOS recommends using an exercise ball for lumbar stabilization exercises.
Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Rest your calves on the ball. There are a few exercises you can do in this position:
Slowly lift one arm over your head, then lower it. Lift the other arm, and switch back and forth.
Slowly straighten one knee vertically. Relax, and switch sides. Alternate left and right.
Do the two previous exercises together by straightening one knee and raising the opposite arm overhead together. Alternate sides.
Slowly (walk) the ball forward and then backward with your legs.
According to NINDS, fitness level can have an impact on how much people suffer from lower back pain.
So while these five exercises are a great place to start in combating the problem, strengthening the back muscles overall may be the key to long-term relief.
Practice these exercises for your spinal needs, but also consider creating a routine of exercises to combat back pain before it starts, such as swimming, stretching and yoga.