Did you know that lower back pain sends more Americans to the hospital each year than any other health condition? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating back pain! Lower back treatment is a tough one for doctors, because most of the time it’s not caused by one thing in particular.
As one of the most common health ailments in America, pain in lower back is often the result of a number of factors relating to an individual’s lifestyle. But this is actually good news for most of you—if your lower back pain isn’t the result of a specific injury or traumatic event, then it might be easily treated with simple lower back pain exercises.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Pain in lower back is largely caused by increased pressure on the back from too much sitting, inactivity, or loss of strength in the back muscles. In fact, there is plenty of research that shows back pain is largely tied to weak back muscles.
Fortunately, you can strengthen your lower back muscles to relieve back pain from the comfort of your own home. You don’t need to go to the gym or buy any special equipment. All you need is about 15 minutes per day!
Simple Lower Back Pain Exercises
If you’re sedentary and haven’t performed much exercise lately, you’ll want to start out very slowly, as going too fast or too hard can result in injury. If the movements hurt or you’re having trouble with a range of motion, only go as far as you feel comfortable.
As you perform the following lower back pain exercises more frequently and your back muscles begin to strengthen, you’ll notice an improved range of motion and be able to go much further without experiencing pain.
Lower Back Pain Exercises #1: Bottom to Heels Stretch
- Kneel on all fours with your heels beneath your hips and hands beneath your shoulders—don’t over-arch your back.
- Keep your shoulders back and neck outstretched—don’t lock your elbows. (Think of how a dog appears when it’s at high attention.)
- Slowly move your rear end backwards, maintain the natural curve of the spine. (Don’t hunch your shoulders over.)
- Go as far as you can—leaving your hands in place the whole time—and hold the position for one deep breath.
- Perform eight to 10 repetitions.
Lower Back Pain Exercises #2: Knee Rolls
- Lie flat on your back and place a flat pillow beneath your head.
- Bend your knees up to a comfortable position, while your feet remain flat on the floor. Make sure your legs are together.
- Your upper body should be relaxed. Keeping your chin tucked in, extend your arms straight so that they’re perpendicular to your torso. Keep your palms down on the floor.
- Slowly drop your knees to one side and allow the pelvis to follow. Make sure to keep your shoulders on the floor.
- Hold the stretch for one deep breath.
- Perform eight to 10 repetitions, alternating sides.
Lower Back Pain Exercises #3: Back Extensions
- Lie on a flat floor with your stomach down.
- Put your arms to your side with your elbows bent.
- You can either have your palms down on the floor, facing forward, or your hands in a fist with the outside of your hand (where your pinky is) on the floor.
- Keep your shoulders back and your neck long.
- If you feel like you’re hiding under your bed, you’re in the correct starting position.
- With your neck stretched, begin to arch your back up, pulling slightly with your lower back muscles, while supporting yourself with your hands.
- As you raise your chest off the ground, you’ll feel it in your stomach muscles and lower back.
- Breathe and hold the stretch for five to 10 seconds and then release.
- Repeat eight to 10 times. Remember not to pull your neck backwards or lift your hips off the ground.
Lower Back Pain Exercises #4: Back Extensions (Advanced)
(Opt for this method of back extensions only when your strength has improved.)
- Lie flat on your stomach with your arms outstretched in front of you.
- Contract your lower back muscles to slowly pull your arms and legs off the ground. You’ll feel the stretch in your back, glutes, and hamstring muscles.
- Hold the stretch for five seconds and then release.
- Repeat eight to 10 times.
Along with the above lower back pain exercises, you should also include more physical activity into your daily life, like walking, cycling, jogging, or water aerobics, to complement your efforts. It’s a commonly held misconception that sitting relieves back pain, however the truth is that the more sitting you do, the more pressure you’re putting on your back. Furthermore, the more time you spend sitting, the less frequently you’re engaging your back muscles, which will cause them to weaken even more.
If your back pain is lifestyle-related, you don’t have to let it continue to hold you back. Work on these lower back pain exercises every day and soon enough, you should be pain-free. Consult your doctor if the pain worsens.
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Cooper, N., et al., “Prevalence of gluteus medius weakness in people with chronic low back pain compared to healthy controls.” National Center for Biotechnology Information web site, May 26, 2015; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26006705.
“Lower Back Pain Exercises” NHS Choices web site, January 2, 2015; http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Backpain/Pages/low-back-pain-exercises.aspx.