Did you know that around 80 percent of the American population will suffer from lower back pain at least once in their life? The worst part is, it’s a type of niggly pain that can be challenging to get rid of or alleviate without help.
While you can head to your local doctor, massage therapist or chiropractor, did you know you can also put your wallet back in your pocket and help yourself?
There are tons of exercises you can do in the comfort of your home to alleviate back pain – all the while contributing to your overall health! Now’s the time to get started. Just be wary about doing numbers six and nine within watching distance of your neighbors if you don’t want to put on a show!
1. Lower Tummy Strengthening
It is important to strengthen your lower tummy muscles because these muscles work in partnership with the lower back. This means if the lower tummy muscles are weak the lower back can tighten up, which can lead to lower back pain.
A great exercise for the lower tummy muscles is shown in the image below. It is extremely gentle and also very effective. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and as you breathe out bring one knee in towards your chest and as you breathe in return the foot to the floor. Repeat this exercise six to eight times on each leg.
If your back hurts at all then this exercise is not for you OR at least not yet.
2. Deep Abdominal Strengthening
A very important muscle to strengthen is the transverse abdominis, which provides a great deal of support for the lower back. In many people this muscle is extremely weak and this can lead to lower back pain. A very gentle and safe way to strengthen this muscle is shown below. To carry out this exercise lie on your back, place a small cushion under your head, and bend your knees. Your feet should be hip distance apart and placed on the floor. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in. Take a deep breath in, and as you breathe out focus on drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Hold this gentle contraction for 5 to 10 seconds. As you breathe out relax your tummy muscles. This is a slow, gentle tightening so aim to use less than 25% of your maximum strength. Repeat five times.
3. Bird Dog
Mobilising your lower back is important to aid it’s recovery. The bird dog exercise is shown in the image below and is great for mobilising the lower back. To carry out this exercise get onto all fours, make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders, and knees directly under your hips. Your spine is in a neutral position and you need to keep your head in line with your spine. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out extend one leg and the opposite arm to inline with your spine. You need to keep your spine in a neutral position at all times, so don’t let your lower back sag down. Hold for 5-10 seconds and as you breathe out lower both your leg and arm to the ground. Repeat this exercise eight to twelve times alternating sides.
Again there should be no pain with this exercise. And if you do it incorrectly you will feel more pain in the back the next day.
Another great exercise for mobilizing the lower back is the bridge, as shown in the image below. To carry out this exercise lie on your back with knees bent and your feet placed hip distance apart on the floor. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out lift your hips off the floor until shoulders hips and knees are in a straight line. As you breathe in lower your hips to the floor. Repeat eight to twelve times.
Again you should not feel increased pain in your back with this exercise.
5. Pelvic Tilts
The Pelvic Tilt is another great exercise for mobilising your lower back muscles. As shown below, lie on your back and place a small cushion under your head. Bend your knees and keep your feet hip-width apart and placed on the floor. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked-in. Gently flatten your lower back into the floor and contract your stomach muscles. Now tilt your pelvis towards your heels until you feel a gentle arch in your lower back, feeling your back muscles contracting and return to the starting position. Place one hand on your stomach and the other under your lower back to feel the correct muscles working. Repeat eight to twelve times, tilting your pelvis back and forth in a slow rocking motion.
Again there should be no increase in low back pain. And truth be told it is much easier to do this after we have used our hands to mobilise the area and release the tightness.
6. Lower Back Stretch
Stretching your lower back is going to be really helpful in alleviating your lower back pain. Kneel on all fours, with your knees directly under your hips and hands directly under your shoulders. Ensure your spine is in a neutral position. Keep your head in line with your spine, your shoulders back and avoid locking your elbows. Take a big deep breath in and as you breathe out slowly take your bottom backwards towards your heels. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. As you breathe in bring your body up onto all fours again. Repeat six to eight times.
This stretch could make your back condition worse if you have a herniated disc. Discs do not like that amount of flexion. If you do not know what is causing your low back pain it would be wise to be evaluated.
7. Leg Stretch
It is very common for your hamstring muscles, which are found on the back of your legs, to be very tight when you experience lower back pain. For this reason it is recommended to stretch them out. You can see a great stretch for the hamstrings below. To carry out this exercise, lie on your back with both feet on the floor and knees raised up. Loop a towel under the ball of one foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg, try not to overdo it. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat two times for each leg.
If you get numbness or sciatica with this stretch you should be careful and you should definitely be working with a physical therapist to help give you parameters to work in that do not irritate the nerve.
8. Piriformis Stretch
Another muscle which can be tight when you have lower back pain is the piriformis, a muscle in your butt. The stretch below is really effective in stretching this muscle, and very easy to do. To carry out the exercise, lie on your back and cross the right ankle over the left knee. Grip the thigh of your left leg and take a deep breath in. As you breathe out pull the knee in towards you. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat two times for each side.
Again this stretch may be too aggressive for acute low back pain. We can help modify it so you do not make it worse.
9. Hip Stretch
It is also good to stretch out your hip as your hip flexor muscles are very often tight when you have lower back pain. When the hip flexors are tight it can alter your posture leading to what is referred to as ‘donald duck posture’ where your butt sticks out too far. This tightens up your lower back and can lead to lower back pain. To stretch the hip flexors, kneel with one knee on the floor and the other foot in front with the knee bent. Push the hips forward and keep your back upright. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds. Repeat two times on each side.
10. Spine Stretch
This final stretch is great at stretching out your spine and it feels good to do, too. Lie on your back and place a small cushion under your head. Keep your knees bent and together. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked in. Take a big deep breath in and as you breathe out roll your knees to one side, followed by your pelvis, keeping both shoulders on the floor. Take a big deep breathe in as you return to the starting position. Repeat six to eight times, alternating sides.
This stretch will definitely aggravate a herniated disc. Please make sure you know what is causing your pain. That is what physical therapy can help you with. We provide a clear explanation and then explain how certain movements can make your condition worse and what will help. That way you know what classes and exercises are safe to do and which ones you need to eliminate. Happy to help! Inquire today and we will get in touch with you.