Lower back pain can range from annoying to frightening. Fortunately, lower back pain treatments involving exercise alone are very effective. In fact, for chronic low back pain, exercise is now recommended ahead of medications or surgery as the first-line treatment.
Which Lower Back Pain Exercises are Best?
First of all, don’t lie down. That seems like the easiest solution, and once upon a time, this type of rest was recommended — but not anymore. These days, your doctor wants you to exercise to ease your lower back pain. You don’t need to overdo it, though. Don’t hurt yourself with heavy lifting or a hard run. There are plenty of simple exercises that can ease your back pain and give you perfect posture at the same time.
These exercises should focus on three things: stretching, core strengthening, and aerobic conditioning.
This is where you’ll get quick relief. Experiment and find the stretches that work best for you, while avoiding anything that hurts.
Start with a simple cat-cow (AKA cat-camel):
Another good stretch for flexion of the lower back involves lying down and bringing your knees toward your chest:
Now instead of flexing the spine, try lengthening it:
Feeling good yet? Okay, now give things a twist:
Finally, focus on the hamstrings. These muscles aren’t technically part of your back, but the tightness of the hamstrings often accompanies lower back pain:
Again, remember: stretching should NOT hurt. It should feel good. If a stretch hurts, either ease off or don’t do that stretch at all. And don’t be afraid to visit a doctor or physical therapist, since pain can be a sign of serious injury.
Strengthen the Core
Stretching can provide quick temporary relief, but a strong core supports the spine and helps to address the real cause of your pain. You’ll want to exercise both your back muscles and your abdominal muscles for balanced strength.
There are a number of core exercises in the next video, progressing from easy to difficult: posterior pelvic tilt contraction (5:34), bent knee leg raise (6:30), crunch (7:18), leg raise with an exercise ball (7:18), and leg raise and crunch with an exercise ball (9:10).
There are endless other options for core work, but here are a couple more that are helpful for lower back pain. First, the bridge pose:
And last but not least, the side plank:
Give your body time to rest after a core workout. You can stretch every day, but since your muscles need time to recover from hard work, it’s okay to alternate rest days with core workout days.
Get That Blood Pumping
Again, your aerobic exercises don’t need to be too strenuous. You’ll want to avoid jarring, high impact activities like running. But there remain plenty of options that your lower back will love you for. And they’re so easy that we don’t even need video examples: just go for a walk, a bike ride, or a swim.
That’s really all there is to it. It might seem that lower back pain is keeping you from doing the things you want to do, but more often than not it’s an inactive lifestyle that leads to lower back pain in the first place.