If the phrase “Oh, my aching back” is part of your vernacular, you’re not alone. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in adults (headaches come as a close first). Lucky for you there is a simple (and free!) aid to help relieve and prevent back pain: exercise. Not only does movement help decrease lower back pain, but it may also speed recovery, prevent re-injury, and enable you to enjoy a long life full of activity. Taking proactive steps to prevent or treat lower back pain is easy and can be done at home without any special equipment.
Exercises that may help reduce or prevent back pain include:
- Aerobic exercise: to condition your heart and muscles, maintain health, and speed recovery. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great back happy cardio options.
- Strength: with a focus on the back, stomach, and leg muscles.
- Stretching: to keep your muscles and other supporting tissues flexible and less prone to injury.
Things to avoid to keep your back happy:
- Straight leg sit-ups.
- Bent leg sit-ups or partial sit-ups (curl-ups) when you have acute back pain.
- Lifting both legs while lying on your back (leg lifts).
- Lifting heavy weights above the waist (standing military press or biceps curls).
- Toe touches while standing.
Its important not to let the fear of more back pain keep you from trying gentle activity. Exercise is the remedy to healing your body. Too little activity can lead to loss of flexibility, strength, endurance, and actually cause more pain. With permission from your doctor, a gentle program of cardiovascular and strength exercise can help ease your aching back and help you on towards health.
Ive created a simple 10 minute physical therapy workout to keep your back happy. These are a few exercises will help strengthen and stretch the areas that need it most and help you on towards optimal spinal health. Aim to work through the routine twice focusing on quality and moving slowly with control. As always, check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting a fitness routine. Honor your body and if anything doesnt feel right stop immediately.
Caroline’s Happy Back Workout Routine
- Birddog (Opposite Arm and Leg Extension): Strengthens muscles running down sides of spine, back of shoulders, hips and buttocks. Begin on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Keep head aligned with spine (to help avoid tilting head, look at floor). Keep buttocks and abdomen tight. Do not arch the back. Lift one arm up and forward until it is level with torso; simultaneously lift the opposite leg in the same manner. Keep arm, spine, and opposite leg aligned as if they are forming a tabletop. Balance yourself for 5 seconds then slowly return to starting position. Switch sides and repeat. Do 10-12 repetitions 2-3 sets.
- Plank: Lie face-down on the floor with your legs together, forearms close to the torso, and toes perpendicular to the floor as if you’re going to do a push up. Lift your body using your abdominal muscles and your arms, until it’s in a straight line from head to toe, and the only things touching the floor are your toes and your forearms. Hold this position for as long as you can, working up to three minutes at a time. Click HERE for more of my perfect plank tips.
- The Bridge: Strengthens several core muscle groups – buttocks, back, abs. Lie flat on your back with the knees bent at a 90-degree angle, feet flat on floor. Tighten abs. Lift your butt off the floor keeping your abs engaged. Your shoulders to knees should be in straight line. Hold for a count of five. Slowly lower buttocks to floor. Do 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps.
- Side Plank: Roll to the side and come up on one foot and elbow. Make sure the hips are lifted and the core is engaged, and hang tight for 30-60 seconds (or as long as you can stomach!).
1. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch. Kneel on mat. Bend right leg and place right foot ahead of you on floor, knee lined up over ankle. Left leg (knee to toes) remains on floor behind you (place a cushion under the knee if mat does not provide enough cushioning). Keeping back upright, press pelvis forward slightly – until you feel a stretch in the front of the left hip. Do not extend knee beyond toes. Tighten left buttock and tuck the tailbone under to increase the stretch and or move your left knee further back. Remember to keep back upright. Hold stretch for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
2. Lying Piriformis / Glute Stretch. Lie on back with legs in air, knees bent at 90 right angle. Place left ankle just above right knee. Grab the back of your right thigh and pull legs toward chest until you feel a stretch in the left glute. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
3. Knee-to-chest stretch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Using both hands, pull up one knee and press it to your chest. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg. Return to the starting position and then repeat with both legs at the same time. Repeat each stretch two to three times — preferably once in the morning and once at night.
When you are pain free and ready to continue your lower back strengthening program with a more challenging routine, feel free to try out my latest 10 minute hip and core circuit. These exercises will continue to build your core strength to help you stay active and pain free for life!
Do you have a favorite exercise that helps strengthen your body towards health? Leave me a comment below if you enjoy these videos or have a favorite exercise move to share! Hope you have fun with these workout videos and enjoy a healthy, happy back for life!
See you soon… till then, keep shining!
Other Things To Check Out This Week:
- Photos from my fun night out with lululemon Grant Avenue “A night in Neon”.
- Wrist stretching video. 5 minute routine to help desk jockey’s have healthy hands.
- “My Healthy Addiction”