Exercises for Low Back Pain

Low back pain is often caused or exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle.   One of the best solutions for the prevention and treatment of low back pain is the regular practice of core strengthening exercises along with mobility exercises.

There several key exercises, when practiced regularly, can reduce and eliminate low back pain by preventing weakness and improving the low back’s ability to tolerate activity.

The key muscle groups to target are the extensors an deep core stabilizers, the abdominals, and the gluteal muscle.    It is also very important to keep the hip flexors and hamstrings flexible so they do not pull the pelvis and low back out of proper alignment.

Exercises should focus on stabilization and endurance – NOT heavy weights!    Here are some of the best low back exercises available.

  1. Belly Button to Spine

Get on all fours with knees under hips and hands directly under shoulders.  Draw your belly button in towards your spine as far as possible without moving anything else.   Hold for a 2 count and repeat 10 – 15 times for 3 sets.    This should be done daily and strengthens the Tranverse Abdominus Muscle which acts like a back brace when properly conditioned.    It is a muscle that circles the entire core underneath the other more superficial abdominal muscles and when it is strong it will prevent back injury and help relieve low back pain.

  1. Hip Hinge

Sticking your butt out may feel weird, but this exercise is key for setting you up for success in building integrated back and core strength.    Start with feet at shoulder width facing forward.   Use a broom stick or other light rod and hold one end with one hand so that it is touching the back of your head and upper back/neck area and use the other hand to make sure it stays in contact with the base of your spine.  They key is to keep a straight line from your head through your low back.

Keeping the rod in place push your butt back until your upper body is flexed forward WITHOUT any bend in the back.   Done properly you will feel this movement in the hamstrings/back of legs.  Come up to the starting position by squeezing the cheeks of your gluteal muscles and do NOT arch the back.   Repeat in perfect form 20 – 30 times each day.

  1. Adductor-Assisted Back Extension

Start on the ground, lying on your stomach. Flex your feet and zip your legs together, keeping just a slight bend at the knees. Press your hips and knees into the ground and lift your elbows up until the hands “float” above the ground. Pull your shoulders down towards your butt while lifting your chest off the ground. Keep your neck long and hold the pose for 20 to 30 seconds.

  1. Eight-Point Plank

Lie on your stomach with your feet flexed, knees touching, and elbows a few inches in front of your shoulders. Pull your shoulders away from your ears, and gently squeeze the knees and elbows toward the center-line of body. Press knees, toes, and elbows into the mat as you lift your hips up to the height of the shoulders. Tighten your core and maintain a long, neutral spine. Pull the elbows and knees toward each other (as though you’re trying to bring the top and bottom of your mat together), and hold the plank for 20 to 30 seconds. If you begin to tremble, you’re doing this right.

  1. Bird Dog Exercise

Get on all fours with your knees under your hips and hands under your shoulders.    Lift your right arm and left leg until they are parallel with the ground without moving your back.    When you lift the arm turn the arm so that the thumb is on top and keep is straight.    Keep the leg straight as you lift it concentrating on tightening the gluteal muscle to perform the lift.    Synchronize the lifting of the arm and leg and pause for 2 counts in the top position.   Repeat on the other side.   Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.

The Takeaway

Research shows that frequently bracing the core and strengthening your back muscles can be effective in promoting long-term relief from chronic low back pain.  At the same time being sedentary is a health risk and a big risk factor for low back pain.    So whenever you catch yourself sitting for a long period of time, try getting up and doing these exercises.   With a little bit of practice and minimal time commitment, you can have a strong and healthy back!