Back pain plagues many people, especially as they get older. While this problem can be the result of an injury, in many cases, poor posture or body mechanics may either be the primary culprits or can add insult to injury. Exercise and stretches targeted to the back can relieve pain and improve your spine health.
Why Exercise Matters
Healthy muscles are balanced, flexible and strong. Ligaments and tendons are also part of that picture; when they are tight it leads to muscle imbalances, stiffness, and pain. Targeted exercise can correct these problems. In addition, muscles – like the rest of the body – need an adequate blood supply to deliver oxygen and nutrients. Aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming or cycling, is just as important as flexibility training and weight-lifting to promote better spine health.
Specific Back Exercises
These exercises target specific muscles that help support your back.
Gluteus Maximus – Lie on your back, feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Slowly lift your buttocks off the floor while pressing your feet into the floor; keep your shoulders on the floor. When your body is one straight line, hold the pose, then lower back down and rest for one minute. Perform three sets of 15 repetitions each.
Transverse Abdominis – start in the same position as above. Take a deep breath in, then breathe out. As you breathe out, pull your belly button toward the spine. Hold for five seconds; repeat five times.
Hip Abductor Muscles – Lie on your side with the lower leg slightly bent. Pull your abdominal muscles toward the spine. Raise the top leg; don’t move the rest of the body. Hold for two seconds, repeat 10 times. Perform three sets, then switch sides.
Back Extensors – Lie on your stomach, arms and legs extended. Lift hands and feet off the ground while tightening the abdominal muscles. Hold for two seconds, return to starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Abdominal Muscles – Lie on your back with feet flat on the floor, hands crossed on the chest. Take a deep breath and brace your abdominal muscles. Slowly lift the shoulders off the ground a couple of inches – don’t round the neck. Return to starting position. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions each.
Stretches for Back Pain
Keeping muscles limber with stretching prevents them from limiting your movements and helps relieve back pain. Remember to work on the entire back, not just the area that hurts.
Upper Back – bring the chin slowly forward until you feel the stretch in the back of the neck. Next, bend the neck to one side as if touching the shoulder; repeat on the other side. Finally, face the corner of a room; place the elbows on each wall about shoulder height and lean forward until you feel a stretch under the collarbones.
Lower Back – lie on the back, pull both knees to the chest and flex the head forward until you feel the stretch in the mid and lower back. Next, lie on the back with knees bent and both heels on the floor; place both hands behind one knee and slowly pull it toward the chest.
No matter what exercise or stretch you’re using, always start slow and work up to the recommended number of repetitions. If an exercise causes increased pain or muscle spasm, stop immediately.
If you have back pain that won’t go away, contact Spine Institute Northwest to learn about our minimally-invasive and non-invasive treatments for chronic pain.