5 Easy Lower Back Pain Exercises
April 10th, 2018
Lower back pain is one of the most debilitating conditions worldwide. According to the American Chiropractic Association, it is the leading cause of work disability in the United States.1 Lower back pain can have a wide array of causes, as well as a variety of different kinds of pain. Many low back pain sufferers have sciatic nerve pain. Many have scar tissue from injury or surgery, causing deep pain in the muscle. Many are suffering from herniated or bulging disks, or any combination of some or all of these, as they are often comorbid conditions.
The lower back includes two portions of the spine: The Lumbar Spine and the Sacral Spine.Two-thirds of Americans are affected by lower back pain, but thirty-seven percent of those affected do not seek professional help. Almost forty percent of Americans report an impact on their sleep, exercise, and daily quality of life, 2 with most just wanting to know what will help back pain.
There are certain muscle groups that are largely responsible for being major antagonists for certain kinds of lower pain. However, lower back pain exercises can turn these major muscle groups into the very muscles that help support your spine. The muscles in the lower abdomen, hips, and buttocks play a large role in both aggravating lower back pain or alleviating it. The lower abdominal muscles play a large role in assisting healthy spinal alignment in your lower back. The piriformis muscles, which is buried deep underneath your gluteal muscles, can be largely responsible for contributing to sciatic nerve pain.3 Also, having stronger muscles in the legs overall, as well as your general core both improve low back pain by strengthening your foundation, which leads to a healthier posture; better posture means less pain.
A common treatment for lower back pain is NSAID pain relievers. NSAID pain relievers have the lowest rate of dependence, are not addictive, and are usually safe to take without a doctor’s supervision. This can be risky, however, especially for those people not under medical supervision. In cases of sciatic nerve pain as well as other chronic lower back problems, large doses of NSAIDs have to be taken over long periods of time to be effective. With this comes the risk of stomach bleeding and ulcers, so long-term use of NSAID for lower back pain or any other reason should be discussed with and monitored by your doctor. NSAIDs can really help, but make sure to discuss your use with your doctor.
Lower Back Pain Exercises
The American Physical Therapy Association found that doctors are not prescribing back pain exercises for lower back pain often enough. Lower back stretches and back pain exercises have been shown to decrease pain and over time, help strengthen the muscles that support the spine. This not only decreases pain in the short term but also has long-term spinal health benefits. Stretches for back pain probably provide the most immediate relief and do encourage excellent spinal health. However, it is the back pain exercises, which really develop the muscles around the lower back; developing the muscles over time is what will most effectively decrease your pain. The lower back stretches are also important and also critical to your muscle growth. So, what exercises help lower back pain I hear you ask?
Back Pain Exercises with Exercise Ball
For several of the exercises you’ll be doing, a large exercise ball is needed. One that is large enough for you to sit on. Note, even being able to sit still on the ball uses core strength and will train it. However, by doing more than that once stably seated, you can increase the rate of growth and isolate different muscle groups, as the abdominal muscle groups are very complex and consist of many very small muscles. These exercises are aimed at helping you strengthen the whole lower part of your core, including your hips and buttocks; these exercises target specific isometric muscles to help you get the most progress, the best efficacy, and the most muscle growth and also some of the best exercises for lower back arthritis. Start by being able to sit on the ball in a stable position indefinitely. For some, this could take a while. That’s okay. You’re training your body to be able to hold itself up more than sit. Tip: While trying to sit in on the ball, squeezing your abdominal muscles and thighs firmly will help you stabilize.
Back Pain Exercises #1: Forward Rolls
Once you have a stable position that you can maintain, you are ready to begin the first exercise. Roll from back to front on the ball while remaining firm and upright. It's hard to gauge how many reps one person should do, so keep count roughly by tens. Back and forth is one rep. Really, just go until you feel tired in the piriformis and lower abdominal muscles. About 20-30 reps for a first timer is probably.more than adequate. It may feel like you can do more, and you probably can. However, abdominal muscles are very easily worked beyond their limit. You often don't feel the pain in your abdomen until after the workout or even until the next day. If you overdo it, you may have a really sore abdomen for a few days.
Back Pain Exercises #2: Sideways Rolls
The next back pain exercise is a variation on the first. Same as before, once you have established a stable position on the exercise ball, rock your hips back and forth, but from side to side this time. This exercise very much aimed to target your lower obliques, which rarely get used. This also works your hip adductors and glutes, which really both support the lower spine. Much of the work done to the lower core is geared toward relieving pressure from the bottom lumbar and sacral spine, typically where sciatic nerve pain resides. Same as before, do about 20-30 reps to start out and that may be more than enough. You don't want to wear yourself out and you don't want to injure a core muscle; it is really unpleasant.
You can work both these exercises up to where you almost don't even have to count repetitions anymore. However, it takes a long time to develop a core that is strong enough to handle really high capacity challenges well. Remember to increase slowly as you feel the strength in your core muscles really develop. A good cue will be when you feel even more stable on the ball. Just remember any increases should be done slowly, and if the suggested repetitions above are too much for you, reduce them. Back pain exercises are specific to every person, so if you have to start with a lower number of repetitions, don't feel it will not bring you sufficient progress. Any engagement in exercise therapy brings progress and builds muscles, and will eventually was you to be able to do more.
Back Pain Exercises Without Exercise Ball
Learning how to effectively balance on and use the ball is one of the most effective ways to target all of your core muscles, since you have many core muscle groups that contain many small muscles. Even sitting on it at work will greatly tone your core and strengthen the muscles that help relieve sciatic nerve pain as well as disk injuries, and other lower back problems. It's also a great way for you to stay in shape when you have a sedentary job, and even encourage better posture throughout the day. Better posture usually means less pain. You can set the exercise ball aside now.
Back Pain Exercises #3: Hip Pushes
For the third exercise, lie flat on the floor. Preferable carpet or a mat; this would be really difficult and uncomfortable on hardwood or tile. Bend your knees until your feet are flat on the floor. Be sure you are totally resting the rest of your back, shoulders, and neck on the floor or mat. Push your buttocks and hips toward the ground, but don't give or rise any. Your position will remain the same; the resistance is created by you holding your position still while pushing against the floor with your hips and buttocks. Hold for approximately ten seconds, then release. Repeat 5-7 times to begin. You can eventually dial up the time you hold to around 15 seconds, and increase the amount of repetitions you do to about 10-12. This exercise really targets both your lower abdomen, your hip adductors, and your glutes.
Back Pain Exercises #4: Leg Stretches
For the next exercise, lay flat on the ground with your knees bent and feet on the floor. About a 90 degree angle of a knee bend is perfect, as the knee will be the gauge for height. Straighten one leg, holding it very close to the ground, hovering and not touching. Now, raise the leg up to where the knees meet in height, slowly, and slowly bring it back down without letting it touch the ground.
Your goal would be to do 10 slowly on each leg without having to rest to touch the ground. However, it's completely understandable to have to rest. Gradually increase as you feel more and more comfortable, since this targets the isometric muscle groups of the lower abdomen most effectively, as well as involves the quadriceps a great deal. Another variation on this exercise is doing the motion rapidly. Do about ten reps, hold the position hovering the ground for about five seconds, the relax. Do 3-4 sets to begin with. You can increase your reps slowly to 15-20, but stay in sets of 3-4. After all, you have to do each leg. 160 reps is a lot.
We'd like to emphasize that your should not do all the back pain exercises in one day. There are many here as well as others you can do, but you don't need to do all of these exercises in a day to be effective. Stick to 2-3 of them. However, you do need to do lower back stretches every day.
Back Pain Exercises: Stretches for Lower Back Pain.
Stretches are arguably the most important part of a physical therapy routine involving strengthening the lower back and the muscles that help keep that part of your spine healthy. Sciatic nerve pain can be often related to a shortened piriformis muscle. Lower back stretches often alleviate these muscle tensions which can cause or contribute to sciatic nerve pain.
To stretch the piriformis muscle effectively, as well as the glutes, use the standard stretch where you cross one foot over the other knee, then grab that foot and pull it toward your chest. Most people spend very little time with this stretch, but to effectively get the piriformis takes holding the stretch for 90-120 seconds on each leg. You will feel relaxation and blood flow returning even in your feet. Just remember to do the stretch slowly and pull for more resistance at a very slow pace.
The next Stretches will be for your lower abs since they have been worked a ton. You will want to lay flat on your stomach. Take your arms, and gently push your upper body upwards, while keeping your legs and hips on the ground. This should stretch out those abdominal muscles you have worked so hard.
There are a few products that can aid you if you are suffering from sciatic nerve pain or some other form of chronic low back pain. There are certain cushions with varying firmness that are round with nothing in the middle. These take the pressure off your sacral spine when sitting. There are also a variety of office lower back accessories such as the seat adjuster made by HealthyBackTM. These adjustments along with exercise therapy should make a big difference in your lower back pain.
Lower back pain affects so many people, and the medical community has been trying to treat it for years now. This has led to addiction and a whole host of adverse medicine reactions for a long list of medicines we are not even sure really work for pain. We know physical therapy is effective and safe. With so many side effects to many of the medications being used today, before you start something new or increase a dosage, try physical therapy. Choose physical therapy. Medicine can dull the pain, but exercise can treat it at the source.
1 Back Pain Facts and Statistics -- American Chiropractic Association
2 Most Americans Live With Lower Back Pain -- Don’t Seek Treatment -- American Physical Therapy Association
3 What is Piriformis Syndrome -- Spine-Health