Many people struggle with lower back pain. In fact, back pain is the number two reason people miss work, second only to the common cold. During a pandemic, when many people are working from home, complaints of lower back pain increase, as more people work in unconventional sitting positions or nontraditional locations. Thankfully, some simple exercises that help support the lower back can alleviate some of the pain you may be experiencing.
People don’t often realize that lower-back pain may arise or be exacerbated because of weak abdominal muscles, but if you think about this, it makes sense. The muscles of the lower abdomen are directly opposite the lower back muscles, and strengthening them supports the lumbar spine and can diminish the pain in the muscles that surround and support the lumbar spine. These exercises focus on stretching and strengthening the lumbar spine and also focus on engaging the lower abdominal muscles, creating a strong, stable support system for the entire lumbar region.
Try to breathe in through the nose and breath out through the mouth while you perform this simple exercise routine, and to devote 5 minutes or so of each day to reducing or eliminating your lower back pain.
The first exercise focuses on the deep abdominal muscles and the muscles that run parallel to the spine. Sit up tall on a mat with your legs in front of you, with your knees bent and your feet at hip width apart, bottoms of the feet flat on the mat. Raise your arms out in front of you, perpendicular to your torso and at shoulder height. Pull your belly button in toward your spine and slowly roll back toward the ground, stopping about halfway down. Relax your shoulders and engage your abdominal muscles; your palms should be aligned with your knees. Exhaling, roll back up and return to a seated position. Remember to keep the belly button engaged and pulling in toward the spine. Repeat this movement ten times.
The second exercise is plank pose, which is one of the best overall exercises for back strength and abdominal strength and which also encourages proper spinal alignment. Beginning on your hands and knees, make sure your hands are at shoulder width, directly beneath the shoulders, and the knees are at hip width. Engage the abdominal muscles and step the feet back so that your body forms a plank position. Make sure your shoulders stay in place over your wrists, and spread your fingers so that the breadth of your hands supports your weight. Keep the back flat, taking care not to let it arch or sag, and hold for 10 seconds. When you first start out, repeat plank 3 times, eventually working up to 10 repetitions of 10 seconds each.
In yoga, the third exercise is known as locust pose, but it’s popularly known as Superman pose. Superman pose engages the entire back, including the backs of the legs and the glutes. Lie on the mat on your stomach with your arms reaching forward and your legs extended back. Keep the feet at hip width and the arms at shoulder width, and pull the belly button in toward the spine to engage the muscles of the abdomen. Relaxing your shoulders, lift your arms off the ground, while also engaging your glutes and thighs to lift the legs off the ground. Now you can see why it’s called Superman pose! Continue to engage your abdominal muscles to help keep pressure off the lower back. Hold for an inhalation and an exhalation, and then release. Repeat this pose 10 times.
The fourth exercise starts out like Superman pose; lie on your stomach and engage your abs, and extend the arms and legs. This pose is known as swimming, though, because instead of lifting both arms and both legs simultaneously, you’ll lift the right arm and the left leg at the same time, as if you are swimming. Then, you’ll release, and then lift the left arm and right leg. Remembering to keep the abdominal muscles engaged, alternate this “swimming” arm and leg movement for 30 seconds.
The last exercise is marching bridge. Make sure to keep your hips stable and steady as you move your feet; if it’s helpful, place your hands on your hips to remind them to stay still. Lying on your back with your knees bent, open feet as wide as your hips. Relax your arms down by your sides and pull your belly button in toward your back. Gently roll the hips up, so that your lower back and middle back are elevated off the ground, pressing down through the feet and engaging the glutes. Lift the left foot off the ground to about a 45-degree angle, maintaining even, stable hips. Then, lower the left foot, and lift the right, alternating the feet as if you’re marching. Repeat this for 10 times on each side.
These five simple exercises can be performed daily and can help you train and strengthen your lower back, preventing the common hassle that is lower back pain.