Low back pain, if left untreated, has the power to alter your day-to-day activities. If you’re someone who enjoys exercising regularly, it can be frustrating when your lower back starts acting up. The natural response is to spend a few days taking it easy, but this may not be the right answer. Resting for more than a day or two can actually impair the healing process and worsen your pain. The back pain specialists at New Jersey’s Coastal Spine focus on a nonsurgical approach to back pain relief. Their physical therapy services show patients the appropriate stretches and exercises for your specific back pain.
It sounds crazy, but when done in a controlled manner, there are many benefits of exercising around your lower back pain. The benefits include:
- Strengthening muscles that support the spine, removing pressure from the spinal discs and facet joints
- Alleviating stiffness and improving mobility
- Improving circulation to better distribute nutrients through the body
- Releasing endorphins, which naturally relieves pain
- Minimizing the frequency of back or neck pain episodes and reducing severity of pain when it does occur
Soreness from exercise vs. pain from a back condition
If you’re a frequent gym-goer, you’re probably used to the soreness of working out. However, there are important differences between soreness and the pain related to a lower back condition. It’s important to know the differences so you can alter your workout routine accordingly.
Soreness is characterized by a dull, aching feeling. With soreness, your back muscles may also feel tender or rigid. Soreness typically lasts between 24 and 72 hours. Alternatively, pain related to a lower back injury is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. The pain can range from moderate to severe and often impedes your day-to-day activities. Having to adjust your daily schedule as a result of lower back pain is usually a telltale sign that your pain is due to a condition. If you’re not sure if you should work through your low back pain, keep this in mind: if a particular exercise is exacerbating your lower back pain, you should not try to work through the pain. The pain felt from a certain exercise could be telling you you’re doing the exercise wrong or the exercise is not designed for your lower back condition.
Best exercises for lower back pain
This low intensity yoga pose gently relieves tension in the lower back. Do this exercise by kneeling down on a mat or blanket and, if possible, sit on your heels. Lean forward and extend your arms out in front of you. Rest your head on the floor and stay in this pose for as long as you like. If it hurts to have your arms stretched forward, cross your arms and rest on your forearms.
Bridge pose/hip raises
Bridge pose, also known as hip raises, helps strengthen the lower back by engaging the core, keeping strong legs, and pushing your hips up. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Begin to raise your hips, squeeze your glutes and engage your core until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this pose for five seconds and then slowly lower. Do a few sets of this exercise.
To see this exercise in action, take a look at the video above. Clam supports healthy hip movement, which takes pressure off the lower back during everyday activities. Do this exercise by lying on your side with your knees bent 90 degrees in front of you and your feet stacked. Keep your feet together and your hips vertical, lift your top knee as far away from the other as possible. Hold this pose for a moment and then slowly release back down. Do a few sets of this before turning on your other side. Pro tip: make sure your lower back doesn’t twist throughout the movement.
Partial crunches can help strengthen your back and stomach muscles.To do this exercise, lie with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest, engage your core, and raise your shoulders off the ground. Pro tip: be sure not to lead with your elbows. This can put more stress on your back and neck. Additionally, avoid sitting all the way up in your crunches (a.k.a. doing sit-ups). Sit-ups may put pressure on the discs in your spine.
Wall sits are great for taking pressure off the back and puts it into the legs and hips. This exercise works your quads, glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings. To do this exercise, stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall, then lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold this pose for as long as you’d like, then slowly slide back up the wall. Repeat this for a few sets.
Water aerobic exercise
Water aerobic exercise strengthens your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Additionally, it may help reduce back pain. Swimming is great if your back is hurting because the water supports your body. Pro tip: check with your doctor before jumping in the pool. Your doctor might recommend working on certain introductory exercises in the pool to strengthen the core and lower back muscles before doing full laps.
Ensuring that you’re doing the right exercises for your condition is critical to back pain relief and recovery. For the best advice and planned exercise regimens, we highly recommend visiting a back pain specialist. New Jersey’s Coastal Spine has a team of experienced back pain specialists who make it their goal to find an approach that works for you.