Exercises to Reduce Back Pain and Exercises to Avoid
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The most natural way to reduce lower back pain is by doing specific exercises to strengthen the back, stomach and leg muscles. Strengthening the muscles helps support the spine. Of course, individuals should discuss any new exercise plan with their health care provider as certain exercises may be detrimental depending on the origin of chronic pain.
- Partial crunches strengthen the back and stomach muscles without the stress on the body of a full sit-up. They are performed by bending the knees while the feet are flat on the floor. The arms are placed behind the neck or crossed across the chest. The belly button is pulled toward the back while exhaling and raising the shoulders off the floor. The stomach muscles, not the neck or arms, should be used to lift the shoulders. After holding for a second, the shoulders should slowly return to the floor while inhaling. The lower back, tailbone, and feet should always remain in contact with the floor. This should be repeated 8-12 times.
- Bridging is done by lying on the back with the knees bent and the heels firmly on the floor. The hips are lifted from the floor while squeezing the buttocks and pushing the heels into the floor until the shoulders, hips and knees are in alignment. The lower back should not be arched while lifting the hips. This position should be held for approximately 6 seconds. The abdominal muscles should be kept tight while lowering the hips back to the floor and resting for 10 seconds. This exercise should be repeated 8-12 times.
- Pelvic tilts are done lying on the back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor while tightening the stomach muscles. The back is pressed against the floor. The position should be held for 10 seconds while the individual slowly inhales and exhales. This exercise should be repeated 8-12 times.
- Knee to chest is performed while lying on the back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. One knee is lifted to the chest while the other foot remains flat on the floor. The lower back is pressed to the floor. This exercise is held for 15-30 seconds. This exercise should be repeated 2-4 times for each leg.
- Bird dog exercise is done by placing the hands and knees on the floor. The abdominal muscles are tightened while lifting and extending one leg behind the body. The hips are kept aligned. This pose should be maintained for 5 seconds before switching to the other leg. Repetitions are 8-12 times for each leg. Lifting and extending the opposite arm during each repetition helps develop balance. The lower back is kept still while performing this exercise.
- Press-up back extensions are performed while lying on the stomach with the hands flat on the floor under the shoulders. The hands push up the body so that the shoulders lift off the floor. This position is held for 3-5 seconds.
- Wall sits are done by placing the body 10-12 inches from a wall and leaning back until the back is flat against the wall. The body slowly slides down the wall until the knees are slightly bent. The lower back is pressed into the wall. This position is held for 10 seconds and repeated 8-12 times.
- Hamstring stretches are performed while lying on the back with one knee bent and looping a towel under the ball of the foot. The leg is straightened while the individual slowly pulls back on the towel. The muscles in the back of the leg should feel a stretch. This position should be held for 15-30 seconds and repeated 2-4 times for each leg.
Exercises to Avoid:
- Toe Touches
Standing toe touches create pressure on the disks and the ligaments in the spine. The lower back muscles and hamstrings can be overstretched as well.
Sit-ups cause stress on the discs of the spine. Also, instead of using their abdominal muscles while doing sit-ups, many people improperly use their hip muscles.
- Leg Lifts
Leg lifts are thought of as a good core exercise. However, individuals should not lift both legs together; this can actually be harmful to the back. While lying on the floor, raising one leg straight up 6 inches while the other is bent at the knee with the foot on the floor is better for the back.