Low back pain affects up to 80% of all people at some point of their life. It can result from innumerable causes like muscle strain, sprain, sedentary lifestyle, overuse injury, disc herniation, sciatica, spondylosis or underlying medical condition and many others. Less than 1% of the cases are due to tumor, systemic diseases or spinal fracture.
Low back pain is usually categorized in 3 subtypes: acute, sub-acute and chronic low back pain, based on the duration of the back pain. Acute low back pain is an episode of low back pain lasting less than 6 weeks, sub-acute low back pain lasts somewhere between 6 and 12 weeks and chronic low back pain lasts for more than 12 weeks. Low back pain is an incredibly common condition that can be relieved or prevented with regular exercise including stretching and strengthening of the low back muscles. Most low back pain can get better if you stay active, avoid positions and activities that may increase or cause back pain. Following are some basic exercises to strengthen and stretch your low back and associated muscles. To begin with, you can start with a few.
- Knee-to-chest stretch– It can help lengthen your spine and in relieving tension and pain. Lie down on your back and draw your right knee into your chest, clasping your hands just above your knee under the thigh. Avoid lifting your hips. Repeat on your left side. 10 Reps on each side.
- Trunk Rotation-In lying position, perform the trunk rotation stretch by keeping your knees together up toward your chest, gently roll your knees to each side, and holding the position.10 times on each side.
- Cat and camel exercises– Go on to your hands and knees, keeping your shoulders over your hands and your knees spaced hip-width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles and arch your spine upward toward the ceiling, hold for 10 seconds, relax and then hollow your back, hold for 10 sec and repeat 10 times.
- Bird dog exercises-Go on to your hands and knees, keeping your shoulders over your hands and your knees spaced hip-width apart. Simultaneously straighten and raise your left leg and right arm, keeping your pelvis and shoulders in a neutral position. Hold for 5-10 seconds and go back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
- Pelvic tilts–Lie down with knees flexed and pointing towards the ceiling, flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and tilting your pelvis toward the ceiling. Repeat 10 times.
- Hamstring Stretches– Tight hamstring are a common contributor to low back pain. Prop the back of your heel up on a table, keep your back straight, and lean forward at the hips. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. For a dynamic Hamstring stretch, lie on your back, reach hands behind your knee, keep the knee at a 90-degree angle, and kick up until you feel stretch.
- Bridging–Start with supine lying with knees flexed together and pointing towards the ceiling, arms by your side with palms facing down. Inhale and push through your heels, lift your lower back and hips, so that the whole body from knees to shoulder is aligned in a slanting line. Your body must be resting on your upper back and shoulders. Hold for 10-15 seconds, repeat 10 times.
- The child pose of Yoga–It helps to relieve pain and tension all along your spine, neck, and shoulders. It helps to loosen up tight lower back muscles and promotes flexibility. Get down on your hands and knees on the floor, with knees just under the hips. From this position, sit on your heels and outreach your arms with hands and forearms touching the ground.
- Piriformis stretch–Lie on your back. Bend your right knee so that your right foot is flat on the floor. Cross your left leg over your right so that your left ankle rests on your right knee. Use your hands to grab hold of your left knee and pull it gently toward the opposite shoulder. You should feel the stretch in your buttocks and hips. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.
- Seated Spinal stretch– In a sitting position with your feet firmly planted on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle, twist on to your right side, hold for 10 sec and then repeat on the left side. 10 times on each side.
- Press up back extensions-Lie on your stomach, with your face down. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides under your shoulders. Press your elbows down into the floor to raise your upper back. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, repeat 10 times.
- Lying lateral leg lifts-Lying lateral leg lifts work the hip abductor muscles. These muscles support the pelvis and can help reduce strain on the back. In the side-lying position, with your legs extended and feet stacked on top of each other, lift your top leg, hold for 10 sec and relax. Repeat on the other side, 10 times on each side.
- Superman’s– Lie with your face down and arms and legs outreached. Lift your arms, head, upper back, and legs few inches off the floor. Hold for 10 sec and go back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
- Wall sits–Stand with your back 10-12 inches/25-30 cm away from a wall. Lean into the wall until your back is flat against it. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold the position for 5 seconds, do 10 reps.
- Partial crunches–Cross arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. Hold for 5 sec, 10 reps.
***It is always advised to consult your healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause of your low back pain and then start with any exercise program. Any exercise that worsen your symptoms or increases your pain should not be done. If you are experiencing low back pain that is severe or does not go away with gentle stretches and exercise, you should consult your Doctor. Be mindful of your body’s limits and don’t push your body to do too much.***
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