lower back pain exercises

Top 10 Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a serious problem worldwide, and it affects people of all ages. It is one of the major causes of disability that hinders optimum performance and productivity according to Global Burden of Disease 2010 . From acute subacute to chronic, it’s a kind of issue that can be avoided by regularly doing lower back exercises to strengthen the muscles on the stomach, back and legs. 

The number of people experiencing this problem continues to rise. And experts are convinced that 80% of the population will once in their lifetime go through the same problem. With this projection, prevention is better than cure, and what’s possible with a healthy and active lifestyle. 

Yes, resting is good for the body, but too much of it may also do your back harm. So, if you’ve been leading a sedentary life, especially with the work-from-home arrangement due to COVID 19, it’s never too late to exert some conscious effort in incorporating lower back exercises in your daily routine. 

Facing back pains

back pain

DCs, or doctors of chiropractic, don’t only focus on back pain. However, they’ve noted that most of their patients visit their clinics for back pain relief. A research revealed that 3.1 Americans have low-back pain symptoms.

The usual cases of back pain are non-organic, which means that serious conditions like inflammatory arthritis, fracture, cancer, or infection, trigger them. Americans spend $50 billion annually to treat their back pain. This proves that the concern is getting serious. 

Lower back exercises at home

Inevitably, your spine may get overworked over time so you will feel changes and some pain in your back. You will also need to be more mindful of the way you sit or how you get up from either lying or sitting down.

At some point, especially if you have a very stationary lifestyle, you will need to move more. You can do stretches to alleviate symptoms of lower back pain. There are simple movements you can even do at the comforts of your own home.

Whenever you do any exercise, especially for lower back exercises, at home or otherwise, always remember to do basic stretches. Don’t skip warming up your muscles. This can help your blood flow more freely and prepare your entire body to move. 

It will also help you find and feel which areas may be too painful when you move even for a bit. Do not force the exercise when it becomes too strenuous for any part of your body.

Try these lower back exercises and see which ones work for you:

Seated spinal twist

seated spinal twist

Twisting postures help tone the belly, massage the internal organs, and relieve lower back pain – an illness not only common in seniors. Thus, including one in your exercises, such as the seated spinal twist or the Ardha Matsyendrasana, is a good idea. This is a kind of restorative yoga and it has beneficial effects on the digestion and spine.

This asana trains you to release energy stored within your body. When you twist, you awaken the fire, called the kundalini. Getting to that mindset allows you to make the most of the movement and experience the relief it brings on sciatica, backaches, and menstrual discomfort. 

How to do this exercise?

Doing a seated spinal twist doesn’t need any equipment, though a yoga mat will contribute to your execution. So, sit on the floor. Make sure that your legs are lying straight in front of you. Put your hands behind your fingers and place your left foot on the other side, outside your right knee. Move your right up and inhale as you do so. Pull it down as you exhale. 

Child’s pose or Happy baby

child's pose

Not everyone has experienced yoga, but if you are one of the wise ones who do, you’ve surely memorized the child’s pose like the back of your hand. This exercise is sometimes referred to as the balasana, which intends to relax both the body and mind. 

What are the benefits of this lower back exercise? First, it stretches your thighs, hips, ankles, and spine. Second, it relaxes your mind which induces fatigue and anxiety as you concentrate on performing deep breathing exercises. Then, it increases your blood circulation. It will also have an impact on your stomach as it promotes light compression for active digestion. 

How to do this exercise?

Start by resting on your knees. Your buttocks should touch your heels. Kneel on your yoga mat then start bowing forward while extending your arms straight in front. Your palms should face flat on your mat as you do until you relax your forehead and neck. You can close your eyes and allow your jaw to untighten. Repeat the process! 

Knee-to-chest stretch

knee to chest stretch

The knee-to-chest stretch usually targets the hip and low back muscles, specifically the lumbar spine. Its purpose is to ease the pressure on your spinal nerves, and that happens through the creation of space for your nerves when they leave your spine. 

Lower back muscles can be tight, and so when you are having difficulty moving them, that’s when you should go out of your way to shrug them off. Good thing, the knee-to-chest stretch doesn’t require much, you actually do it while lying down on the floor. There are people who might not find this a simple deal, and that’s okay. For as long as the calf, neck and hip are given the attention they need, you’re good! 

How to do this exercise?

If you’re a beginner, you may opt to do it with a single leg. When you are used to the movement, and you don’t feel any pain, you can advance and lift both of your legs. So, begin lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat. 

Cat-cow or Cat stretch

cat cow stretch

The cat-cow stretch targets many muscles in your body, including your lower back muscles. Your abdominal muscles and hip flexors get activated, too, when you do this pose. This exercise can improve blood flow from your vertebrae down to your spine.

The name of the exercise is derived from how cats look like when they stretch. Veterinarians suggest that after long periods of inactivity, cats stretch and do this pose before moving again. 

This is interestingly a good thing for people to copy and learn from. When you’re sitting for too long or sleeping for a while, your body is so relaxed that your blood pressure drops. The cat-cow pose helps do the opposite with synchronized breathing.

How to do this exercise?

It’s important to do proper breathing when doing the cat-cow pose. From a crouching table position, square both your hands and knees squared on the floor. Inhale from the cow position. Then, start with a neutral spine, move to a cow pose, and then slowly lift your sit bones upward. Let your belly sink when you press your chest forward.

Elevate your head as you relax your shoulders away from your ears. Keep your eyes straight ahead then exhale going into a cat pose. Round your spine outward and tuck your tailbone in. This will draw your pubic bone forward. Slowly release your head toward the floor but don’t tuck your chin to your chest. 

This should make you feel calm and relaxed so if it doesn’t, check your form and listen to your body where it hurts. Lower body exercises such as the cat-cow stretch can improve your focus, mental stability, and body coordination. 

Bird Dog

bird dog

Exercises that activate the rectus abdominis and glutes help relieve lower back pain. These are the muscle groups and areas that support and strengthen your back, help you bend, twist, or lean on your side.

To develop good balance and improve your posture, you will need to put more focus on your body movements and, especially, engage your abdominals. This should help you stabilize your lower back and experience ease and better mobility.

How to do this exercise?

It’s good to check yourself in the mirror when you do this exercise. Your starting position should be on all fours on a yoga mat. You can put a rolled towel to cushion your knees for added convenience. Your knees should be under your hips and your hands aligned under your shoulders.

From a neutral spine position, engage your abdominal muscles and draw your shoulder blades together. Then, raise your opposite arm and leg (e.g. left arm and right leg). Make sure to maintain that your shoulders and hips are parallel to the floor then lengthen the back of your neck. Tuck your chin to your chest so you are gazing down at the floor. Hold for a few seconds before going back to your starting position raising the other sides of your opposite arms and legs.

Piriformis stretch

piriformis stretch

Sometimes, you may feel that your hamstrings and hip extensors feel pain and you have limited range of motion with your legs and back. When this happens, you typically need to relieve sciatic pain caused by piriformis syndrome.

The sciatic nerve, the body’s largest nerve, can be found in the lower spine. This nerve goes from the buttocks to the back of your thigh up to your heel and toes. Any symptoms of pain anywhere in the path of this nerve may cause lower back problems. 

Try this exercise if you feel any pain that seems to originate from your lumbar region to avoid further inflammation in your sciatic nerve.

How to do this exercise?

Start from a lying position with your legs straight. Lift the leg where you feel some pain and bend your knee. Reach across your body with your opposite hand so you can gently pull your knee up to your chest and toward your shoulder.

Try holding this stretch for a few seconds before repeating the same with the other leg. 

From the starting position, another variation is resting your right leg’s ankle over your left leg’s knee. Hold the stretch after pulling your left thigh towards your chest, then repeat for each side.

Sphinx stretch

sphinx stretch

The Sphinx stretch mimics the cobra pose of the Great Sphinx of Giza where you lay on your stomach and prop your chest up with your forearms. It’s one of the best lower back exercises also popular in yoga that strengthens your shoulder and lower back muscles.

With this gentle backbend, it should aid in opening up your chest, lungs, and lower back. The Sphinx pose can tone your glutes which is good to assist in supporting your hips, pelvis, and spine. It can relieve back pain, specifically, because this exercise helps open up tight areas around your spine and strengthen time simultaneously.

How to do this exercise?

Lie on your stomach and put your elbows under your shoulders. Keep your legs firmly pressed to the yoga mat while engaging your kneecaps and quadriceps. Inhale and then slowly pull yourself up firmly pressing the palms of your hands to the floor. When doing this exercise, avoid putting the pressure on your wrists but make sure your forearms do the work. 

Reach forward through your heart by creating a space between your neck and shoulders but your gaze neutral and slightly upward. You should be calm, comfortable and relaxed in this position. Do consistent deep breathing so your breath goes to where you feel tight in different parts of your body. 

Support your weight with your forearms and don’t focus too much on increasing how deep your backbend is. Move back to a child’s pose afterwards. 

Wall sits

Wall sits are another effective exercise to relieve lower back pain. These are often recommended for back rehabilitation by physical therapists to improve your posture and balance. You can activate your inner thighs’ abductor muscles and hamstrings when doing these lower body exercises. 

Doing wall sit exercises even for 5 minutes a day can generally improve your overall stamina, endurance, and physical performance. Incorporating this in your workout routine can add strength to your lower body and abdomen, specifically. 

How to do this exercise?

Keep your feet and shoulder a width apart. Then, with your torso, lean your back against the wall. With your back still pressed on the wall, your thighs should be parallel with the ground as you gently slide down. 

Bend your knees to a right angle and should be above your ankles. Alignment is key in maintaining good posture and reducing back pain. So, your head, shoulders, and upper back pressed against the wall helps strengthen your spine. Hold this position then start again.

Pelvic tilt

pelvic tilt

If you’ve been experiencing back pain, this exercise might help you. This is how you gently stretch your back muscles without imposing too much pressure in your body. Pelvic tilt is also effective in strengthening your buttock and abdominal muscles. 

The anterior pelvic tilt allows you to rotate your pelvis forward, as you do this movement, you curve your spine. This is the best if your lifestyle involves too much sitting in front of the computer, or for work, that you no longer exercise. 

How to do this exercise?

To perform a pelvic tilt exercise, slowly lie on your back to the floor with your knees bent. Make sure that your abdominal muscles tighten when you bend your pelvis up. Do this movement for ten seconds and then repeat from 12 to 15 times per set. 

Supine twist

supine twist

The supine twist is calming and meditating. Also known as the Jathara Parivartanasa, or Supine Twisting Posture, this pose is the usual end-of-class movement for its the perfect transition from one exercise to the other. This mindfulness practice is appropriate for beginners who are still to venture on more complex lower back workout routines!

This twist is usually included in the cool down portion of a yoga session. It is the best way to take advantage of the warmed muscles that are involved in the deep twists because they are responsible for counteracting the effects of prolonged sitting. At the end, this movement targets the obliques, chest and glutes. 

How to do this exercise?

The supine twist is simple to do. Lie your back flat on the floor. Slowly bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor and let your knees point up until they face the ceiling. Lift your hips up and drive them to your right. This is the crucial movement of the routine so you should set your hips that it stacks on top of the other when twisting. 

Other lower back exercises worth checking out

Pigeon pose

Glute bridge

Seated lower back rotational stretch

Shoulder blade squeeze

Lower back exercises to avoid

People with back pain should be careful with the physical activities they perform, including lower back exercises as wrongly executing them can do more harm than good. The goal is to not exert too much strain on the back ligaments, joints and muscles. Hence, it’s great to be mindful of the routines that can put your back at risk. Here are some of them:

  • Superman back extensions

If you have a back problem, you’ll need further evaluation before doing supermans for they could worsen your condition. This exercise requires you to lie down on the floor, and lift your legs and arms off the ground, holding that position for a little while. Most people complain about the discomfort they experience with this movement. Studies show that this kind of exercise puts stress on the joints. 

  • Double leg raises

Leg lifts are the usual exercises present in core strengthening, but you should limit doing them if you’re suffering from lower back pains. It’s been three decades when studies point out the pain straight legged sit-ups cause the back. Since your hip flexors activate as you raise your legs over 90 degrees, you put pressure on your back. 

  • Sit-ups

Sit-ups are recommended in core exercises because they are good for the abdomen. However, they’ll enforce too much pressure on the spine which increases the possibility of disc herniation problems. The compression also triggers injuries. As the lumbar spine bends, it has the tendency to wear out which may result in herniation or disc bulging. 

 Which exercise is best for lower back pain relief

Walking and biking are some of the best exercises that can strengthen your lower back. If you can go to a pool or the beach, swimming is also good to reduce lower back pain. Many chiropractors recommend aerobic exercises to keep your blood flowing and support your body weight, consequently, avoiding stress in your back.

If you’re starting to feel that your back hurts, avoid lifting heavy objects. Slouching is another culprit typically weakening your back muscles. Always make it a habit to do stretches every couple of minutes or no more than 1-2 hours. If you are without even the slightest movement during prolonged inactivity, it can lead to serious medical problems.

Check your sleeping positions at night that could be causing harm in your posture, too. Sometimes, it may help to sleep on your side, for example, and place a pillow between your knees to help. Keep in mind that it’s all about alignment of your spine that helps prevent inflammation in your back.

Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute wants you to have quality of life with length of life. A few simple changes in your lifestyle habits may just be what you need to achieve that!