Whether the result of an injury, illness or aging, lower back pain can range from a minor nuisance to an impediment to daily living. The World Health Organization reports that lower back pain impacts between 60 and 70 percent of people at some point. You can successfully address this pain through exercises as part of an overall physical therapy plan. When combined with healthy lifestyle choices and any medications your doctor deems necessary, these exercises can help limit or even eliminate your lower back pain. Remember to get your doctor’s go ahead before starting a new workout or therapy regimen.
1. Stretching It Out
Stretching is important to do before all your workout and physical therapy sessions, but stretching exercises can all effectively address lower back pain. The source of your pain may not be in the lower back itself, but in one of your extremities or higher up in your back. Stretching those areas can help eliminate the pain that reflects to your lower back. Here are a couple stretches to try:
- Stretch your hamstrings. Lay on your back and wrap a towel or exercise band around your foot while bending your knee. While gently gripping either side of the towel or band, slowly straighten your bent leg as far as comfortable and hold for a few seconds before releasing. Repeat on the other side. Complete several reps in a row or mix throughout your therapy regimen as your therapist directs.
- Extend your back. Lay on your front with your forearms flat on the floor and elbows placed in line with your chest. Slowly push your upper body off the floor, creating a curve around your lower back. Only go as far as comfortable. If you feel twinges of increased pain, you have stretched too far. Hold for a few seconds and repeat.
2. Cardio in Slo-Mo
The same motions in popular cardio or core-working exercises, when performed in ultra slow motion, can be very beneficial for lower back pain. Start with these:
- Perform modified crunches. Avoid sit-ups, which can exacerbate back pain. Instead, perform slow, modified crunches to strengthen both your back and abdominal core muscles. Clasp your arms over your chest. Never place them behind your neck, which can cause pulling and additional pain. Clench your back and abdominal core muscles, and slowly raise your shoulders from the floor by a few inches. Hold for a count of three then slowly lay back down. Repeat up to a dozen times as comfortable.
- Pedal an imaginary bike. Lay on your back and pretend you’re riding an imaginary bike, using exaggerated motions to slowly bring each bent leg to your chest. Hold each leg in place against your chest for a count of 10 and then slowly lower it before raising the opposite leg. Repeat on each leg up to a dozen times.
Many other exercises can also help you overcome lower back pain. Work with your health care professional and a certified physical therapist to design a routine specific to your individual needs.