|Back pain can strike at any time.|
Five Exercises for Back Pain
1. Knee-to-Chest Stretch
The knee-to-chest stretch lengthens the lower back and glutes, which are the muscles of the buttocks. Even though the glutes are not a back muscle, they still affect the alignment of your spine and can cause pain, according to BigBackPain.com. To perform the knee-to-chest stretch, lie on your back with your feet on the floor, knees bent. Pull your right knee into your chest and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and hold the left leg up for an equal amount of time. Finish the exercise by pulling both knees into your chest and holding for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat the sequence two to three times. The Mayo Clinic recommends performing this stretch once in the morning and then again at night.
2. Cat Stretch
The cat stretch lengthens your entire spine from your tailbone to your neck. Moving your spine in both directions during this exercise increases flexibility throughout the upper, middle and lower back. To begin, kneel on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. Your arms and thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Start with your spine straight. Slowly arch your back, moving your abdomen toward the floor. Then, pull your abs in and round your back toward the ceiling. Let your neck drop down so that your spine curves. Do three to five repetitions of this stretch two times a day, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
3. Standing Hamstring Stretch
|Standing hamstring stretch for back pain.|
To perform the standing hamstring stretch, stand up straight and relax your arms at your sides. Bend forward from the waist with a straight spine and try to touch your toes. Do not force yourself to reach your toes. Only go as far as you must to feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Hold for 30 seconds and then slowly stand back up.
4. Shoulder Blade Squeeze
The shoulder blade squeeze is a strengthening exercise for the upper back. If you have rounded shoulders that slump forward, this exercise helps correct that problem. To perform the shoulder blade squeeze, sit on a stool with your chest lifted and looking straight ahead. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if trying to make them kiss and hold for five seconds. Ideally, you should perform this exercise three to five times in a row, twice a day.
5. Lumbar Stabilization with a Swiss Ball
Lumbar stabilization is the ability of your core muscles to support your lumbar spine in a neutral position. The lumbar spine is the bottom section of your lower back. This part of your spine has a natural curvature that is known as neutral spinal position. To strengthen the muscles and promote lumbar stabilization, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends an exercise called lumbar stabilization with a Swiss ball. This exercise places your body in a face down position parallel to the floor, but with your legs resting on top of a Swiss ball so that your legs and back form a straight line. The Swiss ball also gives you an unstable surface to work from. It is unstable because it rolls. Your core muscles must therefore activate to hold you in place and this makes them stronger.
The lumbar stabilization exercise with a Swiss ball is a three part exercise:
A). Lie with your abdomen on the ball and place your hands on the floor. Walk your hands forwards until the ball is under your shins. As you walk forward, keep your back parallel to the floor. This is how you maintain a neutral position. Also, squeeze your abs tight so that your pelvis does not move out of alignment. If your lower back arches or rounds, then you know that your lumbar spine is not in its proper place. Position your hands directly beneath your shoulders with your arms straight. Hold for 60 seconds and then walk your hands back to the starting position with the ball under your abdomen.
B). Walk forward again and until the ball is under your shins. Then, raise your left arm over head slowly. Return your left hand to the floor and repeat with your right arm. Continue to alternate arms while keeping your back in neutral position for 60 seconds. Return to the starting position.
C). Walk your hands forward until the ball is under your shins and align your hands with your shoulders. Perform push-ups by bending your elbows to lower your chest toward the floor. Let the elbows flair out the sides, but watch that your back remains flat. Do push-ups for 60 seconds and then walk your hands back to the starting position.
A trick to ensure that you are doing this exercise correctly is to position your body sideways to a mirror and glance periodically at your reflection to check that your back is straight.
Before beginning any exercise program, speak with your doctor. Not every exercise is appropriate for your unique situation. Also, some exercises may be uncomfortable, but they should never cause an increase in back pain. Listen to your body and do not anything that feels like it is hurting more than helping.
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Photo credit: planetc1, lululemon athletica