We've all had back pain. If you've been on this earth long enough, all of us will experience that familiar nagging twinge at some point.
It's painful, uncomfortable, frustrating, and can be downright miserable, but it's become a part of life.
There are only a few things we can do when it happens.
Take medicine to ease the pain, visit a chiropractor, and wait.
A chiropractor is a fantastic resource to take advantage of when it comes to all kinds of back pain.
They will treat not only your back pain, but they'll treat your entire body.
But what can we do between trips to the chiropractor?
Is there anything we can do to keep back pain from occurring besides crossing our fingers and hoping for the best?
As it turns out, there is. Stretching and the correct exercises will go a long way to strengthen our back, ease our pain, and prevent injuries from reoccurring.
For more information about back pain, read the blog on things you should know about back pain.
Below is a list of stretches and exercises you can do at home to improve the overall health of your back.
Here are three stretches you can do anytime, anywhere. If you have an exercise mat to do them on, perfect. But it's not required.
- Knees to Chest Lay flat on your back, and both knees up toward your chest. Place one hand over each knee and gently pull your thighs close to your chest. Taking deep breaths, hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds.
- Knee Tilts While laying flat on your back, bring your knees to your chest, then tilt them to the right, bringing them as far down as you comfortably can. Hold this for 30 seconds, come back to center, and repeat on the other side. Repeat until fatigued. Be sure to keep the small of your back on the floor the entire time to avoid injury.
- Cat-Cow Get on all fours with your arms straight and your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your knees directly under your hips. Start with a flat back, then arch your back as high up as it will go, while pulling your abdominal muscles up. Hold for a few seconds. Reverse this motion by pushing your abs toward the floor, arching your back in the opposite direction. Repeat until fatigued. Remember to keep your head facing forward and the back of your neck straight, in alignment with your spine.
Below are ten exercises you can do 3-4 times a week to keep your back in tip-top shape.
Remember to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.
1. Lower Stomach Exercises
Your stomach muscles work in partnership with your back muscles, so it's important to keep your stomach strong. Having a solid core is essential to back health.
The following is a very gentle exercise anyone can do. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Breathe in and as you breathe out to 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.
2. Deep Abdominal Strengthening
Your transverse abdomen is an essential muscle to exercise because it provides a lot of support to your lower back.
It's also usually pretty weak in most people.
To strengthen your transverse abdomen, lie on your back, place a small cushion under your head, and bend your knees.
Keep your feet hip-distance apart and flat 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 don't put all of your power into
3. Spine Stretch
This move is great at stretching out your spine. Just like the knee tilt stretch shown above, 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 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 another deep breathe in as you return to the starting position. Repeat six to eight times, alternating sides.
4. Bird Dog
The bird dog exercise is great for mobilizing the lower back. Get on all fours, put your hands are directly under your shoulders, and knees directly under your hips.
Your spine should be in a neutral position and 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 align with your spine. Be sure not to 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.
5. Hip Stretch
Typically your hip flexor muscles are tight when you have lower back pain. Tight hip flexors tighten up your lower back and lead to lower back pain.
To stretch your 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.
Bridge is another excellent exercise for mobilizing the lower back.
To complete, 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.
7. Piriformis Stretch
Another muscle that tightens when you have lower back pain is the piriformis, a small muscle located deep in the buttock, behind the gluteus maximus.
To carry out the exercise, lie on your back and cross the right ankle over the left knee. Grab 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.
8. Pelvic Tilt
Lay on your back and place a small cushion under your head. Bend your knees and keep your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor.
Relax your body and gently tuck in your chin. Flatten your lower back into the floor and contract your stomach muscles.
Tilt your pelvis towards your heels until you feel a gentle arch in your lower back, feel your back muscles contract, 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.
9. Leg Stretch
It's not uncommon for your hamstrings to be very tight when you experience lower back pain. For this reason, it is recommended to stretch them out.
To keep your hamstrings loose, 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, but don't overdo it. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Repeat two times for each leg.
10. Lower Back Stretch
Stretching your lower back is helpful to alleviating your back pain.
Kneel on all fours, with your knees directly under your hips and hands directly under your shoulders. Make sure your spine is in a neutral position.
Keep your head in line with your spine, your shoulders back, and don't lock your elbows.
Take a big deep breath in, and as you breathe out slowly take your bottom back toward your heels. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
As you breathe in return to all fours. Repeat six to eight times.
Congrats! You've Completed your Back Exercise Routine
There you have it. Do those three stretches every morning, and then do the ten exercises 3-4 times a week, and you'll have a strong back in no time.
Again, please consult your doctor or a chiropractor before beginning a new exercise program. For a free consultation.