When you have lower back pain, you would want to consider doing some stretching and strengthening exercises of your back and core muscles that support your spine. As you are building up these sets of back and abdominal muscles, you will be more aware of your posture and at the same time, these trained muscles will help you to take some pressure of your spine providing you with some pain relief.
I was slouching since young and my work is usually sitting behind a desk. Gradually, I begin to feel my back discomfort. It is not long before I was in my early 40s that I started to read up on back pain.
One of the relief method is exercising. I thought to myself, exercising ? I mean I played tennis 3 times a week and the fact that I need exercise is the furthest from my mind. As I researched further, I found out that my legs and arms are getting the exercise needed. However, for my back and core muscles, they are hardly getting any. I did not know that.
As such I started trying out different back exercises and have committed 15 minutes a day to do my favorite back exercises. Through the months of exercising, the one thing I personally felt very important is having correct posture at all times. Although sometimes I forget and went in the habit of slouching, as soon as I am aware I am slouching, I correct my posture immediately. It really does help to relieve my back pain and aches.
There are many exercises that you can do for stretching and strengthening your back. Here are some common lower back pain relief exercises that I personally find are beneficial to me. Make sure you check with your medical professional if these exercises are suitable for your condition.
Top 3 Stretching Exercises For Your Back
1. Knee to Chest Stretch
This method is one of the most relaxing.
- Lie on your back with both knees bent.
- As you bring one of your knees towards your chest, clasp the kneecap with your hands and bring the knee closer towards your chest.
- Keep your other foot on the ground while doing this movement.
- Hold for 10 seconds and bring the leg back down and repeat the method for the other leg.
You can also do this movement for both knees together.
2. Lying Down & Twist:
There are many versions to do this exercise.
- Just lie on your back with arms stretched sideways, like a T shape.
- With your shoulders firmly touching the ground, bring both your knees up and move it to one side (knees touching the ground at a 90 degree angle).
- Hold for about 20 seconds and slowly move your knees to the other side. Repeat.
Another version of this is to:
- Lie on your back.
- While shoulders touching the ground, bring your right leg to the left, touching the ground with it.
- Hold for 20 seconds.
- Bring your right leg back and bring your left leg across to the right and hold for 20 seconds.
Sitting down & Twist
This is one of my favorite hip movements exercises when sitting down. If you are sitting down for long period, like at work, airplane, car journey, you can do this similar motion of twisting your hips to relieve the tight muscles.
- In a comfortable sitting position, use both hands to grab onto 1 side of the chair.
- Twist your upper body to the side.
- Hold for 10 seconds and switch sides.
After doing this motion about 5 times, I always felt my back muscles have loosened nicely.
3. Cobra Pose
This position involves you
- Lying front down on your stomach, with toes pointed out.
- Your hands should be near your shoulders. Palms down like in a push up position.
- Prop your upper body up by slowly straightening your arms, with your hip area still touching the ground.
- Hold for 10 seconds and slowly lower yourself back to starting position. Repeat
Similarly, using the same method but modified, you can also prop yourself up with your elbows instead. Lift your upper body as high as you feel comfortable and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat.
Top 3 Strengthening Exercises For Your Back
1. Raising The Pelvis
Also known as the Bridge exercise, is great for the lower back.
- Lie on your back with both knees bent with hands by your sides.
- Lift your toes so that only your heels are touching the ground.
- Keeping your shoulders and head on the ground, slowly lift your pelvis and buttocks till your body is in a straight line.
- Hold for about 5 seconds, lower your pelvis down and repeat.
Another option is to use a chair. Place your feet up a chair in such a way that your thighs are 90 degrees to the floor and do the pelvis lift.
2. Partial Sit Ups
This works on your abdominal muscles.
- Lie on your back with both knees bent.
- Loosely cross your arms across your chest or hold your hands at your ears.
- Lift your head and shoulders together while keeping your neck and shoulders in line. Avoid straining your neck.
- Exhale as you lift your head and shoulders up and inhale as you go back to the lying position.
3. Bird Dog Exercise
This exercise has been a well-known and effective core and spinal exercise.
- Go on the ground on your hands and knees.
- Raise and extend your arm out front and your opposite leg out behind you, keeping your hips stable. (Beginners might find it hard to balance at first. Feel free to start lifting a couple of inches off the ground and gradually, lifting higher)
- A straight line should be formed from your hand through your body and to your foot. Your weight should be centered.
- Hold for 5 seconds and lower.
- Do the same for other leg and arm and repeat.
Many people I know that once they have back pain, they first think of is to rest and let it heal by itself. However, many researchers are debunking this myth and recommends that you try to be as active as possible. For most of the back pain issues, they believe that the damaged tissues are more likely to be healed if they are gently used. By exercising at a lower intensity, you are increasing the blood flow and circulation to your muscles and tissues so that they can repair themselves faster.
In fact, having that complete rest may not be helpful at all, according to the researchers.
To get you moving in the right direction, many physiotherapists, physiologists and other medical professionals have come up with their own blend of exercises to help their clients. A well-known exercise is the McKenzie method, which evolves around 4 steps: assessment, classification, treatment & prevention. Another popular method focusing on the posture is the Egoscue method.
Whichever way you choose to exercise to relieve back pain, just remember to check with your doctor on which type of exercises are suitable for you. Warm up before you start exercising. Do slow controlled movements, do not do jerky movements. Exhale during the exertion and inhale when going back to the original position.