Exercises and Stretches to Help Alleviate Back Pain
Did you know, that according to the Mayo Clinic, back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work? In fact, here are a few more interesting facts about back pain:
• Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
• Back pain is the SECOND most common reason people visit their doctor
• Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain
• Experts estimate that 80% of the population will experience some sort of back problem in their lives
Now that we’ve got those facts out of the way, want to hear some good news? Sure you do! According to the American Chiropractic Association, most cases of back pain are mechanical – meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture, or cancer. What that means is that through some exercises, stretches, and proper body mechanics, you may be able to relieve that stubborn back pain you’ve been dealing with for so long.
First, you’re probably wondering what “mechanical” cause of back pain refers to. Well, think of our spine as our foundation that keeps us together. The lower portion of our spine, or our lumbar region, is responsible for supporting the weight of our bodies. Over time, as we neglect our bodies and continue with our everyday chores, our lower back muscles tend to weaken, as do our abdominal muscles. Things such as improper lifting techniques, excess weight, lack of exercise, and poor posture all play a role in lower back pain. Poor lifting techniques put too much pressure on the lumbar vertebra, being overweight puts too much stress on the lumbar vertebra, lack of exercises weakness the lower back and abdominal muscles, and poor posture can lead to shortened and tight muscles, as well as improper muscle balance.
Now that you have a brief breakdown of how lower back pain works, here are three stretches and exercises to help rid you of that lower back pain that just wont seem to go away.
Stretches: Often times, overworked muscles in our lower back will tighten up and lead to pulling in one direction which will in return result in poor posture and mechanics, as well as pain.
1) Piriformis Stretch – Lie on your back and cross one leg over the other so that your ankle rests on the opposite knee. Use your hand to grab hold of your knee and pull it towards your opposite shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
2) Seated Hamstring Stretch – Tight hamstrings will often lead to increased stress along your lower back. Sitting on the edge of a chair, straighten out one leg in front of your body with the heel on the floor. Then, while sitting up straight, try to reach forward as if you we’re attempting to touch your toes, while keeping the leg straight. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
3) Prayer Stretch – This stretch will help loosen up tight lower back muscles that may be overworked and have tightened up overtime. While on your hands and knees, reach your hands forward to feel a stretch through your lower and mid back.
You can also perform this stretch by reaching to either side of your body, which will then stretch out the opposite side of the spine. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times.
Exercises: In addition to strong back muscles, strengthening your gluteus and abdominal muscles are important in reliving back pain, as both of these muscle groups help support your lower back.
1) Bridges – While lying on your back and with your knees bent, flex and engage your abdominal muscles. Then lift your hips towards the ceiling while contracting your buttocks together. This will help strengthen your abdominal muscles as well as your gluteus muscles. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds and repeat 15 times.
2) Bird Dog – The bird dog is an excellent exercise that’ll help strengthen your lower back and abdominal muscles. While starting on your hands and knees, position knees underneath your hips and your wrist and elbows underneath your shoulders. Then, flex and engage your abdominal muscles in order to prevent arching of the lower back. You will then lengthen the opposite arm and leg simultaneously parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 3 seconds, slowly lower, and then repeat on the opposite side. Repeat 10 times on each side.
3) Clams – This exercise will help strengthen the hip abductors. While lying on your side with your legs together, knees and heels together, open your top knee towards the roof while keeping the heels connected and then slowly lower. Repeat 15 times on each side.
Now, although these stretches and exercises aren’t the only ones available to help with lower back pain, it’s a good place to start. Skipping the medications and the surgeries and instead getting down to the root of the cause (posture, mechanics, muscle imbalance) may be just what the doctor ordered! Do these stretches at least 3 days per week and at least 2 to 3 times per stretch/exercise.
If you don’t feel comfortable performing these exercises on your own or if you’re looking for more guidance, come visit us at Repke Fitness. Our certified personal trainers can help you improve your posture, muscle imbalance, strengthen your core and loosen up those tight muscles.
• American Chiropractic Association – Low Back Pain Relief
• Global Burden of Disease – http://www.thelancet.com/gbd
• WebMD – http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/living-with-low-back-pain-11/five-back-pain-stretches
• Mayfield Brain and Spine – https://www.mayfieldclinic.com/PE-BackPain.htm
• Physical Therapy First – www.physicaltherapyfirst.com
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