Relieving Back Pain Through Low Impact Exercises
Over 31 million Americans suffer from low-back pain at any given time, making it the second most common reason for doctor visits (1).
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), chronic back pain costs around $600 billion in lost productivity and medical treatments every year.
There is really no one type of individual that back pain can target.
However, it seems that the majority of the sufferers are women. Many pregnant women suffer from back pain due to their growing stomach.
Mothers suffer from back pain due to constantly lifting and carrying children.
Much of their pain is also caused by weak abdominal muscles that have been stretched during pregnancy and have not yet tightened back up.
Office workers who hunch over a computer keyboard all day often complain of upper back pain.
Individuals who have physical labor jobs often suffer from back pain caused by repetitive motion.
What causes low back pain
Michael Kelly, MHSC, a certified neuromuscular therapist, states that a lot of low back pain is a result of poor posture.
This causes certain muscles in the lower back to tighten in order to overcompensate for the weakening muscles of the upper back caused by slouching.
Sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time can cause a muscular imbalance, also causing upper or lower back pain.
Exercising can help with low back pain
According to the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine), 80% of adults will suffer from back pain at some point in their life. Brian Sutton, MS, MA, NASM-CPT, says that if you can catch poor posture early enough and perform the proper exercises to correct it, you can prevent back pain later on in life.
Exercises that strengthen the back muscles help to keep the spine erect, therefore correcting poor posture.
Performing exercises that strengthen the core muscles also helps to keep the upper body aligned, relieving pain and helping to correct poor posture.
The following exercises are proven to strengthen the core and back muscles, helping to support the body and providing pain relief:
Longitudinal Foam Roll Exercise
Place a foam roller on the floor and lie on top of it so that the end of the roller is at the base of your spine, and the other end is toward your head.
- Your spine should be aligned with the roller.
- Keep your feet flat on the floor and let your arms rest out to your sides.
- Stay in this position for 2 to 3 minutes. This helps release pressure from the spine and stretches all the tight muscles in your back.
Elevated Hip Raise
This exercise strengthen the gluteal muscles, hips and lower back without putting pressure on your spine and lower back.
- Lie on your back with your feet on a box and your knees bent at a 45 degree angle.
- Keep your feet shoulder width apart, push your heels against the box and raise your butt off the floor to form a straight line from your knees to the shoulders. Hold for 1-2 seconds.
- Slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position. Perform 15 repetitions.
This exercises strengthen your entire posterior chains, including your glutes(butt), lower back, mid, and upper back and shoulders.
It's especially suited for women who sit in front of a computer all day long as it helps to strengthen the weak posture muscles and bring them back in their proper place.
- Lie face down on the floor with your arms above your head and palms facing each other.
- Contract your lower back and butt muscles and raise your upper body and legs off of the floor.
- Hold for 30-45 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position.
The plank exercise is one of the best indirect abdominal exercise there is.
It challenges all of your ab muscles as and the stabilizing muscles in your lower back. It's one way to strengthen your core and lower back to reduce back pain.
- Start at the top of a pushup position, bend your elbows and lower yourself down until you can shift your weight from your hands to your forearms. Your body should form a straight line.
- Contract your abs (imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut) and hold for as long as you can. If you can't make it to 30 seconds, hold for 5 to 10 seconds and rest for 5 seconds.
- Focus on your form.
- Don't drop your hips or raise your butt.
Horizontal Dynamic Plank
Because this exercise is both a crunch and plank, you get to isolate your abs and strengthen the back and core muscles at the same time.
- Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Keep your head down and spine in a neutral position. Keep your abdominal engaged, slowly extend your left arm out (slightly out to the side of you) while simultaneously extend your right leg behind you, slightly to the side.
- Hold this position for 2 seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
- To help you keep proper form, you may place a long dowel rod down your back with one end resting on your hips and the other end resting on the back of your head. Keep your movements slow and balanced in order to keep the dowel rod in place.
Side Plank Exercise
- Lie on your left side with your legs straight. Prop your body up on your left forearm. Your shoulder should be directly above your elbow, and your right hand resting on your hip.
- Contract your abs and raise your body off of the floor. Only your elbow and feet should be touching it.
- Hold this position for as long as you can, then repeat on the other side.