Back pain affects almost everyone at some point in their life. It is the most common body pain that people experience. Back pain can occur anywhere along the spine but the most common location is in the lower back.
There are many reasons that you might develop back pain. Some of the common causes of back pain are, degenerative disc disease, arthritis, bulging or ruptured discs, muscle strain, and osteoporosis. Be sure to check with your physician before performing any exercises that are new to you.
If your back pain is chronic, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) might help your physician get a better view of your spine and determine the cause of the pain and the best exercises for you. Getting an MRI can be unpleasant but knowing more about your specific problem can help narrow down which exercises will benefit you the most and which workout routine will reduce your back pain.
If you’d rather take a more direct approach, you can try one or all of the back-pain exercises below to help keep your body as flexible (and pain-free) as possible.
1. Partial Crunches
This exercise is ideal for lower back pain because it helps build strength in the lower back and stomach muscles. Individuals suffering from spondylosis will find this exercise very beneficial. To get started, do the following:
- While lying on your back, keep your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent.
- Place your hands directly behind your head. As a variation, you can also choose to cross your arms over your chest.
- Keeping your stomach muscles as tight as possible, raise your shoulders from the floor.
- As you raise your shoulders, breathe out. Be sure not to lead with your elbows or yank your neck off of the floor. You also don’t want to lift your feet or your tailbone, either.
- Hold for one or two seconds, then slowly lower yourself back down to the floor.
- Repeat this 8-12 times.
2. Hamstring Stretches
Many people skip stretching before working out or else they don’t take the time to do it right. Skipping stretching can lead to injury. If done correctly, hamstring stretches can ease lower back pain by stretching and elongating the muscles that support the weight of your lower back.
- Lie flat on your back.
- Bend one knee.
- Wearing athletic shoes, place a towel on the bottom of your foot on the straight leg, just beneath the ball.
- Pull back gently to lift your leg vertically. If your leg reaches a full vertical position (your foot up towards the ceiling) you may safely pull closer toward your chest if it is comfortable. Don’t force it or you may pull a muscle. Hold the stretch for about fifteen seconds.
- Repeat this five times on each leg.
This move is excellent for relieving pain in the middle and upper portions of the back. It can be done with or without a yoga mat. If you are lying on a firm surface, you may wish to add a light layer of padding so you’re not directly on the hard floor. To perform this ultra-cool exercise, do the following:
- Lie flat on your stomach.
- Place your hands flat on the floor, under your shoulders.
- Slowly raise your upper body, while keeping your forearms and hips relaxed on the ground.
- Exhale and allow your chest to sink toward the ground.
- Hold for five to ten seconds each.
- Do ten repetitions or do as many as comfortable, eventually working up to ten.
4. Cat-Cow Pose
The cat-cow exercise is a yoga pose that eases pain in your middle back. You can use a yoga mat if you have one, but it is not required.
- Get on the floor on your hands and knees.
- Hands should be flat and spine neutral (straight in a horizontal position) with knees evenly spaced with your shoulders.
- Slowly tighten your tummy muscles and arch your spine.
- As your back rounds toward the ceiling, tuck in your chin down towards your chest. Hold this for five to ten seconds. Don’t forget to breathe!
- Release and return to a neutral position.
- Repeat this one more time for max benefit. If your pain has not lessened, and you feel comfortable, you can also repeat this in a couple of gentle reps.
5. Opposite Arm/Leg Raise
This exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles and full back. Similar to a plank, you can do this on or off a yoga mat.
- Position yourself on the floor on your hands and knees. Keep your legs straight and about shoulder-width apart with your bum in the air. Hands should be flat on the floor beneath your shoulders.
- Slowly extend one arm out while at the same time lifting the opposite leg.
- Hold for five to ten seconds.
- Slowly lower your arm and leg.
- Do ten to fifteen reps on both sides.
Taking a dip in the water has long been recommended by doctors and therapists as a good way to exercise stiff bodies. The weightlessness created by floating in the water reduces the pressure on your joints and allows you to move more freely.
Swimming will improve your circulation which increases oxygen in the blood. Increased blood-oxygen levels can help fight arthritis pain. Swimming and even just treading water can significantly improve flexibility in your hips and knees.