You have back pain and I’m telling you to go exercise; it sounds crazy, right? Well, as long as you clear it with a medical professional, you can exercise to relieve stubborn, chronic pain. Exercise is the most powerful, preventive medicine there is. When you use resistance training to prevent or ease the pain, you’ll work to strengthen your backs’ supporting muscles. But before you try any of these moves, talk to an expert who knows your pain points. Some exercises might not be the right fit for your body or condition.
Partial crunches are hard to over-do, and that’s important for people with back issues. For this exercise, you’ll get in crunch-position and put your hands behind your neck, but don’t pull on it. Really use your mind-muscle connection here and tighten this ab. You’re only going to raise your shoulders (only!) off the floor, and remember to breathe. Stay in control of the movement at all times. Hold for a few seconds. Don’t fling your shoulders down. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position. WebMD says you’ll want to repeat this movement “8-12 times.”
This yoga stretch isn’t really an exercise, but we think you should most definitely work it into your cool down. Laying back and dropping your knees from side-to-side will stretch your whole spine, without a doubt. But add in a leg pretzel-like-twist and you’re going to be in heaven. I’m not a yoga pro, so I’ll let the pros at Yoga International explain it:
Photo Via Yoga International
“Lie on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor near the pelvis. The arms are extended from the shoulders, palms down. Cross the right thigh over the left, wrapping the legs tightly (if possible, catch the left shin with the toes of the right foot). Now lift the pelvis off the floor momentarily, sliding the left hip underneath and toward the center. Then lower the pelvis, twist to the left, and let the wrapped legs release toward the floor.”
Or as they’ve also been called: rehabilitation squats. This move lets you build strength and skip the stress. What I like most about this exercise is that it’s commonly used by therapists and doctors to help back patients regain mobility. Beginners should aim for 20 seconds or more a rep. As you progress you can work up to 60 second holds with 30 seconds of rest in between reps, says Coach Magazine.
Stretch Out Those Hamstrings
“Hamstrings...back....hamstrings...back.” How could the two possibly be related, turns out tight hamstrings are one of the number one contributors to lower back pain? So when was the last time you properly stretched out those hammies? However, you’ll want to avoid doing any standing toe-touches. If you have chronic back pain, toe-touches can put more pressure on your back and over stretch it. The exercise can overstretch your hamstrings. So you’ll want to find a different (safer) way.
WebMD suggests you lay on your back, knees bent, and grab a towel. You’ll use the towel to gently pull back one extended (and straightened) leg.
“Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg.” - WebMD
Physical therapists use this exercise to strengthen the lower back and as a treatment for sciatica pain. You’ll work your lower back and core muscles while doing this exercise, plus you’ll accomplish a little peach sculpting while you’re at it. But most importantly, you’ll be strengthening your hips. People with weak hips are more likely to overuse their lower back muscles, which can lead to, you guessed it, more back pain.
You’ll want to lie on your side with your legs stacked. Keep your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Don’t tense your neck and just lie it on your arm. Use your top arm to steady yourself. Healthline.com says to, “Be sure that your hipbones are stacked on top of one another, as there is a tendency for the top hip to rock backward. Engage your abdominals by pulling your belly button in, as this will help to stabilize your spine and pelvis. Keeping your feet touching, raise your upper knee as high as you can without shifting your hips or pelvis. Don’t move your lower leg off the floor. Pause and then return your upper leg to the starting position on the ground. Do 20 reps on each side.”
As always, before trying any of these exercises talk to your doctor so you don’t unnecessarily injure your back further.