Easy to follow home exercises.
As mentioned in our previous post on managing back pain, a whopping 85% of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. In previous years, bed rest was prescribed if your back was “playing-up,” whereas today it is recommended to keep moving. It goes without saying that the exercises you do must be appropriate and not too high intensity. However, there are some great exercises you can do which should help alleviate pain. These exercises are extremely gentle, but of course, listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain.
The exercises will help to stretch muscles that are normally tight when you have lower back pain and strengthen the muscles that tend to be weak. It’s important to incorporate exercises to reconnect and address any muscular imbalances you may have. Many injuries and niggles can be caused by improper muscle activation patterns. Bearing in mind there are many causes to back pain, so make sure you get examine by a qualified professional. Depending on the cause and intensity of your pain, some exercises may not be recommended and can be harmful, therefore it is important to get an accurate diagnosis.
Start slow and gradual with these simple stretches:
It is very common for hamstring muscles to be tight when you experience lower back pain. They insert on the lower part of the pelvis and lie underneath the Glutes (which also insert onto the posterior pelvis and sacrum/ lower back). Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel or exercise band under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. If it’s too much, or painful, then hold on to the back of your thigh and pull leg inwards. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for 20 seconds and then repeat 2 to 4 times for each leg.
The Gluteal muscles insert onto the Sacrum, Ilium (pelvis), Sacrotuberous ligament and Thoracolumbar fascia which lies over the lower back, and then onto the Femur. Therefore it’s important to stretch first, to reduce tension and then reactivate for proper muscle firing patterns. Hold this position for 30 seconds and breathe. Draw your lower knee into your chest, you can push on the outside of your knee to increase this stretch, ensuring your spine remains in a neutral position and tailbone on the ground. Repeat on both sides. You can extend the leg to also target the Hamstrings.
Once stretched it’s important to reactivate the Glutes for correct firing. Lie on your back with feet hip- width distance apart and knees bent. Push your heels into the floor, squeeze your Glutes, and lift your hips off the floor until shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Hold for 8- 10 seconds, and then lower hips to the floor and rest, repeat 8 to 12 times. Avoid arching your lower back (as your hips move upward) by tightening your abdominal muscles. For added inner thigh activation you can hold/ squeeze and exercise ball between the legs, or place legs between an exercise/ pilates ring to push things against during the movement.
Piriformis Stretch/ Pigeon pose
Another muscle which can be tight when you have lower back pain is the Piriformis. This muscle lays deep under the Glutes and you may experience Sciatic pain if the Piriformis muscle is tight, it will simultaneously stretch the hip flexors of the opposite leg. Extend one leg straight out backwards with the other leg bend in at 90 degrees. Find a position where you can feel a stretch in the buttocks but comfortable enough for you to relax into. As you breathe out and become more flexible you can lower the body to the ground. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, repeat twice each side.
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet hip- width distance apart and placed on the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles, and tilt your pelvis towards your heels until you feel a gentle arch in your lower back- then tilt your pelvis back towards you, you’ll feel your back pressing into the floor, and your hips and pelvis rocking. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 8 to 12 times in a slow rocking motion.
Back twist Stretch
Lie on your back and place a small cushion under your head. Keep your knees bent and together. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out roll your knees to one side, extend the lower leg out and keep the upper leg bent. Keeping both shoulders on the floor you can push down on the top knee for an enhanced stretch, hold for 20- 30 seconds. Breathe in as you return to the starting position and alternate sides.
Child’s pose stretch is great for lower back, hips and thighs. 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 and keep your head in line with your spine. Take a deep breath in and as you breathe out slowly take your bottom back towards your heels. Hold the stretch for 20- 30 seconds. As you breathe in bring your body up onto all fours again. Repeat 6 to 8 times.
Press-up Back Extensions
Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Push with your hands so your chest begins to lift off the floor keeping your hips down. If it’s uncomfortable for you, come down onto your elbows directly under your shoulders and hold this position. Keep Glutes relaxed and not tensed. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat twice.
Hip flexor Stretch/ Lunge
When the hip flexors are tight posture can be altered, excessive force can pulling the front of the pelvis forward into an anterior tilt, increasing the curve of the lower back (lordosis), leading to back pain. To stretch the hip flexors, kneel with one knee in line with hips and the other foot in front with the knee bent to 90 degrees. Push the hips forward and keep your back upright, isometrically (statically) contract the Glutes to inhibit relaxation of the hip flexors, bend your upper body over to the opposite side to increase the stretch into the Iliopsoas and Quadratus Lumborum. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds, repeat twice on each side.
Gentle aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming and cycling, will also strengthen your lungs and heart and can help you lose weight, which can reduce the load on the lower back and reduce pain. Pilates may also help with back pain, combining stretching, strengthening, and core abdominal exercises. Ensure you use a reputable instructor and inform them about your back pain so the exercises can be tailored to your needs.
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