Let’s face it, discomfort in your lower back can disrupt your everyday life. This is especially true as you age or put more pressure on your spine. Whether back pain is stiff and tight, sharp, and shooting, or dull and achy, it is an unpleasant experience.
Fortunately, there are easy workouts to help strengthen your muscles and bolster your spine’s health, helping you say goodbye to back pain.
Why Staying Active Is Good for Back Pain
The lower back is the workhorse of your body’s support structure, as it shores up the biggest part of your upper body. The lumbar spine does most of the heavy lifting for your body, be it coordinating jogging, walking, and other movements such as twisting left and right or picking up heavy items.
All of these movements can take a toll on your back over time and eventually cause back pain. A weak core, excessive stress, and injury can also cause this discomfort. Being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, or having poor posture can exacerbate the pain.
Backaches are one of the most common reasons for doctor’s visits in the US, only trailing respiratory infections and coughs. It is no surprise, then, that Americans spend as much as $100 billion to treat backaches, according to a study in the Ochsner Journal.
No matter the cause, don’t take a backache lying down—literally. Inactivity can do more harm than good. Your lower back muscles will weaken, and your joints will stiffen, worsening the pain.
An effective alternative is proper exercise. It can help strengthen your legs, stomach, and lower back muscles. Essentially, exercising helps perk up your spine and alleviate lower back pain.
In fact, trusted organizations — most notably the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, and Harvard Medical School — cite exercise as the most effective tool for conquering back pain for the roughly 80% of Americans poised to experience this condition at some point in their lifetime.
However, the kind of exercise that you adopt makes a difference. According to Dr. Brandon Claflin of Oklahoma, you’ve got two primary goals when it comes to back exercises:
- To stretch your legs and back.
- To strengthen your entire core.
Now, let us look at the four most recommended exercises for relieving lower back pain.
Great Exercises and Stretches for Back Pain Relief
1- Cat/Cow Stretch
The cat-cow stretch brings the best of both worlds. It combines the back-healthy agility of low-impact exercising and yoga’s deep, reinvigorating mind-body connection. Although it doesn’t require any equipment, the pose engages all of the muscles that support your lower back.
This stretch is great for flexibility while being simultaneously gentle on your spine. Executed properly, this exercise helps quell tension in your back and leg muscles and makes your spine more flexible.
- Start in a kneeling position on the floor. Keep your hands shoulder-width apart. Make sure that your knees are directly below your hips.
- Inhale deeply as you arch your back. Lift your head upwards and tilt your pelvis up in a cow-like pose. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Next, move into the cat pose. Exhale deeply, bring your chin down towards your chest, curve your spine while tucking your abdomen like a cat.
- That is one repetition. Do 7 to 9 more reps.
Be mindful of your spine’s range of motion and flexibility. When you’re ready to increase this stretching exercise, add 5 to 10 sets. You can also stay in the cow position for an additional 15 seconds.
2- Bird Dog Crunch
The bird dog crunch is a simple core stretch. This exercise leverages your body’s core stability to strengthen your lower back muscle in tandem with moving your arms and legs. It is a superb way to target your whole body, notably your shoulders, glutes, hips, and balance center.
This stretch works to enhance your posture and lengthens your spinal column, resulting in an uber-flexible and pain-free spine. It is an ideal exercise for anyone with spasms in the lower back.
- Start on all fours on the floor. Your hands should be aligned under your shoulders while ensuring that your knees are aligned underneath the hips.
- Slowly stretch your right leg and left arm out. Draw in your abdomen and make sure that your stretched arm and leg are parallel to the floor.
- Hold the stretched pose for 3 to 5 seconds. Go back to the all fours position.
- Switch by extending your right arm and stretching out your left leg. Hold the stretched pose for 3 to 5 seconds.
- Go back to the default position. That completes 1 set. Try to do 6-8 reps on each side of your body.
Maintain correct alignment and posture throughout each rep. Stretch and retreat steadily yet slowly, holding your leg and arm out for 3-5 seconds before you switch. To level up this exercise, incorporate an additional 3 to 5 seconds into the hold position.
3- Glute Bridge
If you want a low-impact exercise that isolates your lower back, core, glutes, and hamstrings, try the glute bridge. This exercise thoroughly works your entire buttocks, as well as stretches your shoulders and chest. It is a great stretch for getting rid of back pain due to all-day sitting.
- Lie on your back, with your feet flat on the floor, roughly shoulder-width apart and aligned with your knees. Your arms should rest by your sides with your palms up.
- Squeeze your glutes and abs and as you start to lift your hips upwards.
- When you achieve a full-hip stretch without arching your back, squeezing your glutes as tightly as you can.
- Your body should be in a straight line from your shoulder to hips to knees. Hold this position for about 2 seconds and slowly go back to the default position. Aim for 10 to 15 reps.
For a more advanced version of this exercise, add the single leg or marching glute bridge to each repetition.
4- Easy Plank
Planks are a workout staple, for good reason. This low-impact exercise does a great job of toning your hips, shoulders, lower back, and core. It also works all of the muscles that control and support your spine.
- Start in a push-up position, with your forearms on the mat and elbows in alignment under your shoulders. Your feet should be hip width apart.
- Your body should be in a straight line from your heels to your head. Look down at the mat. Engage your glutes, quads, and abs as you draw your abdomen towards your spine. Hold the plank for 10 to 15 seconds.
- Bring your knees down to the mat. That is 1 rep. Go for 3 planks to get the back pain healing started.
Add an extra repetition when you are ready to up your routine, or try holding the plank position for an additional 15 seconds on each rep.
As previously noted, a growing body of research demonstrates that exercise is a likely answer to preventing and alleviating lower back pain. Low-impact stretches like cow/cat, glute bridge, and bird dog crunch deliver the most benefit for relieving lower back pain. Other effective exercises include full-body roll-ups, the Supine Twist, and knee-to-chest back stretches. Remember to combine proper exercising with reducing stress, and you will be on your way to saying goodbye to back pain!