Lower back injuries are very common. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience lower back pain. The last thing that most people with back pain want to do is exercise, however, core exercises that strengthen muscles and support the spine will reduce pain and pressure on the spinal column. Core strengthening and stretching also helps the spinal cord get the nutrients and fluids it needs. It is important to see a doctor before starting an exercise program because not all lower back injuries are the same. This article contains exercises and stretches that your doctor may suggest. It is important to ease into an exercise program at your own comfort and increase or lower the suggested parameters of each exercise based on how you feel. Never exercise to the point of pain.
Stretching the lower back will reduce pain and pressure. While stretching, go slow, do not bounce, and do not stretch beyond your limits. You will gain flexibility and be able to progress each stretch with practice.
Lie on your back with both legs on the mat. Slowly bend one knee to chest while the opposite leg remains straight and on the floor. Hold knee into chest for 15-30 seconds. Do 2-3 repetitions per leg.
Modification: If you are having difficulty keeping bottom leg straight, bend bottom leg with foot on the mat.
The reclined hamstring stretch is good for relieving sciatica. Lie on a mat and raise one leg as high as you can while keeping your butt and bottom leg on mat. Grab the back of your raised leg at the hamstring or back of the knee and gradually pull knee towards your chest. Hold stretch for 15-30 seconds and do 2-3 repetitions per leg.
Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the mat. Have your arms spread out. Slowly rotate knees to the ground using your feet as a pivot point. Concentrate on keeping your shoulder blades on the ground. Turn your head in the opposite direction of where your knees are pointing. Do 2-3 repetitions and hold stretch for 10-15 seconds.
Lie on your stomach and prop yourself onto your elbows, raising your chest off the mat and keep your hips on the mat. If you do not feel discomfort, straighten your elbows to further extend the back and keep your hips on the mat. Do 2-3 repetitions and hold stretch for 15-30 seconds.
This stretch is good for elongating and taking tension off the spine and decompressing nerves between vertebras. With a physio ball, lie on your back letting the curvature of the ball stretch and extend your back. Hold for 20-45 seconds and do 2-3 repetitions.
Strengthening Core Muscles
Kneel on a mat with both hands placed shoulders width apart. Clinch your abdomen. Lift alternative leg and arm. Hold extended arm and leg for 10-20 seconds and then repeat on the other side. Do 2-3 reps per side
Stand two feet from wall and lean into wall. Bend knees at a 90 degree angle. Hold for 30-45 seconds and do 2-3 repetitions.
Lie on back with knees bent and feet on the floor. With arms supporting back of neck raise shoulders off ground. Hold crunch for 1 second and return to mat. Do 3 sets of 20.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the mat and your knees bent. Keep your back flat against the mat. Clinch your abdominal muscles and slightly bend your pelvis upwards. Hold pelvis upwards for 10 seconds. Do 2-3 repetitions.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat and arms at your sides, and breathe in. Exhale as you press your feet into the mat and squeeze your butt and raise your hips off the ground one vertebrae at a time. Inhale at the top and then exhale as you lower your back to the floor. Do 2-3 repetitions and hold for 10-15 seconds.
Aerobic (cardiovascular exercise)
In addition to strengthening your core, low impact aerobic exercises like swimming, biking, and walking will reduce body fat that is additional weight which strains your vertebra. Exercises like yoga and Pilates are also useful for reducing lower back pain.
Kurt is a writer for CaliDiet California Healthy Living Magazine & Fact Based Health Journal. He has a BS in kinesiology, and three years of experience tutoring and assisting teachers for anatomy / physiology classes. In his spare time he volunteers in a variety of physical therapy settings. He is passionate about ergonomics and safety in work place settings.