10 Simple Exercises That Ease Lower Back Pain

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10 Simple Exercises That Ease Lower Back Pain

Knowing the right exercises to ease lower back pain start with a basic understanding of which muscle groups support and connect to this often over-stressed area of the body, as well as the most common causes of soreness and tension in the lower back.

Ideally, core muscles such as the abdominals and obliques should help to support the weight of your upper body. If these areas are weak or injured, lower back pain is often a result. Tightness in the gluteals and hamstrings may also pull on your lower back muscles, causing them to feel tense and sore.

The following 10 low-intensity exercises are great for stretching and exercising these five muscle groups – the glutes, thighs, abdominals, and obliques, as well as the back muscles themselves – and can go a long way toward helping to alleviate lower back pain.

1. Abdominal Crunches

If your lower back pain is the result of lots of bending and lifting, strengthening your abdominal muscles is the best place to target for a quick fix. Fit in a daily set or two of partial sit-ups, also known as abdominal crunches to get your tummy into better shape and take some of the strain off of your lower back. Just follow these easy steps:

  • Lie on the floor or on a yoga mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, about shoulder width apart.
  • Cross your arms over your chest or lace your fingers together behind your head.
  • Keeping your arms relaxed, focus on using only your abdominal muscles to pull your upper body off of the floor and part-way into a sitting position. You should feel the exercise in your stomach muscles, but not in your arms, back, or thighs.
  • Hold this pose for up to 10 seconds, then lower yourself back to the floor.
  • If you aren’t used to doing abdominal crunches, start slow and only do one or two sets of ten repetitions. After a couple of weeks, your abs will get stronger and you may want to add more reps or sets to your routine.

2. Single Leg Lifts

Another great exercise for strengthening core muscles, leg lifts target the lower abdominal muscles. While the double leg lift may be too strenuous – especially if you aren’t used to doing these types of exercises – the single leg lift is a great alternative.

  • Lie on the floor or on a yoga mat with one leg bent at the knee and the other extended straight out in front of you.
  • With your back pressed flat against the floor and fingers laced behind your head, lift your extended leg straighten up until your heel is about six inches from the floor.
  • Hold this for about 10 seconds, then lower your leg slowly back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise ten times with each leg for one set.
  • If you find this exercise is too difficult, try starting with your extended leg bent slightly at the knee. (The closer your foot is to your body, the easier the lift will be.)

3. Oblique Crunches

This exercise is almost identical to the crunches we did in exercise #1, but works it the oblique muscles instead of the lower abdominals.

  • Lie down on the floor or on a yoga mat with your back and shoulders pressed against the floor.
  • Bend both legs at the knee and turn them to one side so that one leg is pressed flat against the floor. Ideally, try to keep your knees together.
  • Cross your arms over your chest or lace your fingers together behind your head.
  • Keeping your arms relaxed, focus on using only the obliques (the muscles between the bottom of the rib cage and the hip bone) to lift your upper body just a couple of inches off of the floor.
  • Hold the pose for up to 10 seconds, then lower yourself slowly back to the floor.
  • Perform this exercise ten times then roll your legs to the other side and do another ten repetitions to complete the set.

4. Stretch Your Glutes

The gluteus maximus – largest of the three muscles in your buttocks – is primarily responsible for keeping your body upright, meaning that even if you don’t do regular gluteal exercises, this is still a massively powerful muscle. Because the top edge of the gluteus maximus is directly attached to the bottom of the lumbodorsal fascia (that’s the membrane that covers and protects all of your lower back muscles), when it gets cramped, it can be a major pain in the lower back. If you do a lot of sitting, bending, heavy lifting, or stooping; check out this guide and learn How To Stretch Your Butt Muscles from livestrong.com.

5. Butterfly Sitting Pose

As with the glutes, the muscles in your thighs can cause lower back pain when they get tight or cramped. One of the best exercises to relieve tension in these areas is actually a Yoga pose. Purna Titali Asana, the Yoga Butterfly Sitting Pose is great for helping you to relax, stretch your glutes and thighs, and take some of the tension off of your lower back.

Check out this article on yogitimes.com for the full technique as well as some background on the pose.

6. Lengthen Your Hamstrings

Another often over-worked and under-stretched muscle group are the hamstrings. These large muscles in the back of the thigh shorten, cramp up, and cause lower back pain from frequent and extended periods of sitting. Stretching your hamstrings on a daily basis can help to lengthen and relax these large muscles, thus alleviating some of the tension they may be putting on your lower back.

  • Lay down with your back flat on the floor or on your yoga mat and both legs bent at the knee.
  • Lift one leg so it is perpendicular to your torso.
  • With your knee still bent, loop a small towel or exercise band under the ball of your raised foot and slowly straighten your leg. You should feel a gentle pull in the back of your thigh as your hamstring muscles stretch.
  • Hold this pose for 15 – 30 seconds, then slowly lower your leg back to starting position.
  • Follow these steps again for the opposite leg. Repeat the stretch at least two times per each leg.

7. Bird-Dog

This exercise may have a funny name, but bird-dog is no joke when it come to building core strength, working out the glutes, and taking some of the tension off of your lower back all at the same time. Follow this six step guide by acefitness.org to learn more about this incredible exercise technique.

8. Wall Sits

To further strengthen your abdominal muscles, thighs, and glutes; wall sits are another excellent choice.

  • Stand with your back about 12 inches away from the wall.
  • Lean back until your back is pressed flat against the wall then slowly slide down, almost into a sitting position.
  • Keep your back pressed firmly against the wall like this for 10 seconds, then slowly raise back up the wall.
  • Repeat the exercise ten times, or as many times as you are comfortable with.

9. Pilates Bridge

Pilates exercises in general are great for building core strength and flexibility. However, the Pilates Bridge technique is one of the best for strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles, to alleviate tension and pain in the lower back. Check out this great guide on bostonbody.com to learn how to perform the technique.

10. Swimming

While it may not seem like it, swimming is a wonderful way to not only reduce pain in the lower back, but also strengthen your entire body – lungs, heart, and musculature – all at the same time. Furthermore, swimming is perfect for people with sore joints or those who are carrying a lot of extra weight because it’s a zero-impact exercise.

Remember: Before you swim, familiarize yourself with these important swimming safety guidelines, compliments of the American Red Cross!

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