Back Pain Exercises – Introduction
If you go online to search for “Back Pain Exercises” or “lower back pain exercises” you will be given an assortment of various stretches and bad back exercises, that I know I certainly could not have done when I was unfit or when my back pain was at its worst.
What most of these articles or videos fail to tell you is that unless you keep fit regularly, a lot of these lower back pain exercises are not going to be suitable.
For example, lying on the floor with your knees up, and then lifting your behind and lower back up off the floor is going to make your back pain worse, if you are out of shape. Of course everyone is different, but this particular exercise puts a lot of pressure on your back. Yes, it does strengthen your back, but only if you have a certain level of fitness already.
And the typical back pain exercises that could be done by many back pain sufferers should not be attempted without a warm-up first. I only do that particular exercise myself after an aerobic workout, even now that I am relatively fit.
So if you want to do those stretches and exercises recommended on other back pain sites, at least go for a walk first or do a light warm-up first. Always only do a small number to begin with, to see how your back reacts later, and always stop if you are in pain. Never try to soldier through!
It is important to know this extra information as well as the exercises themselves, because if you do try any of them and they result in more pain, you are either going to think the lower back pain exercises do not work, or worse; that all exercises are bad for your back.
This will put you off trying any more exercises or stretches, and you will end up going backwards because the right kind of exericise is your ticket OUT of pain!
If you give up exercising for fear of worsening your pain, you will never be able to break free of back pain.
The following few pages describe an easy plan that I stick to in order to stay pain-free.
It is easy to modify it to fit in with your routine. But please don’t think that you don’t have time to do any of this stuff, because I actually incorporate the exercises into the necessary breaks I need to take anyway.
If you spend more than two hours a day at the computer, you should be taking regular breaks, even if only for five minutes at a time.
If you spend more than two hours a day watching TV, you can do this stuff in the ad breaks, and it will be enough to make a difference!
Don’t believe me?
The Correct Back Pain Exercises
The best exercises for back pain should, first of all, be designed to warm the back muscles up, in order to make them more flexible.
If you are in severe back pain and do not have a high level of fitness, but you need to strengthen your back in order to relieve your back pain, then the best advice I can give you to begin with is simply to walk. Walking is the best exercise you can do for your back pain.
Do not attempt to do any typical back pain exercises, stretches or core muscle exercises just yet. As stated earlier, the back pain exercises illustrated on most websites are for when you have reached a certain level of fitness. I will give you the information you can use to get yourself to that level, so you can strengthen your back as quickly, but as safely as possible.
You need to get moving, soon and as frequently as possible. And you obviously need to avoid adding any pressure to your back. Don’t carry any bags; not even light ones (and especially not shoulder bags). Just concentrate on walking.
No bending, no lifting, no stretching and no reaching. The body is designed to walk. Even if you have been told that you have spine disc degeneration, walking will still help you. Go at a pace that is comfortable, and rest when it starts to hurt.
Walking around the house is not enough, but it is better than nothing. If possible, get out and walk for at least ten minutes.
If you have a dog, that’s perfect because you can exercise your dog and yourself. Anything between 20 minutes and 90 minutes is fine, as long as you are comfortable.
Once you are back at home, rest for up to 5 minutes if you need to. Not too long or your muscles will lose their heat and flexibility. Then do some gentle teeny squats!
Only bend your knees about 2 inches; in fact it won’t seem like you are lowering yourself at all; just bending your knees forward a little bit. If you are able to squat a bit further, that’s fine, but only do a maximum of two sets of 8 repetitions (that’s eight squats, then rest, then another eight). And don’t lock your knees in between each rep.
If you ever notice the resting position of most martial arts, they are standing up with their backs straight and their knees slightly bent. This is actually a more stable position that having your knees locked.
Have you ever been on a bus, with a bus driver who likes to brake at the last second? When the time comes to get off the bus, you’ll find you are much better off if you bend your knees, to reduce any sudden movement.
So how will these tiny squats help your back?
It will strengthen your thighs and buttocks, and once they are strengthened, you will be able to relieve the pressure off your back and knees all day long even while hardly moving at all. When you walk in future, your back will find it easier and easier if you continue to do these micro squats regularly. And your knees will thank you for it too, as strengthening the thighs takes pressure off your knee joints.
This is what is so wonderful about these “micro exercises”; they hardly seem like exercise because they are not any effort to do. But if you remain consistent and do them every day, they all add up, and you will be surprised by just how quickly you can strengthen, not just your back, but all of you!
Keep on moving in the house
Next, we need to continue moving, but again, it has to be the right type of exercise. It needs to be light exercise where we are standing, but not doing anything strenuous. An awful lot of household chores fall into this category.
So let’s start with washing the dishes. I’m serious.
If you have a dishwasher, you are probably doing your back no favors by filling and emptying it every day, as this involves bending down the wrong way.
If washing dishes is not an option, find something else to do that requires standing and doesn’t require bending, lifting or stretching. And something that does not require vigorous exercise; only gentle movement.
You could do any of the following:
- Clean the kitchen work surface,
- Clean the kettle (when did you last clean that? Use an old toothbrush – it’ll look like new!)
- Clean the base of the taps (again; an old toothbrush)
- Arrange books on a shelf to be in rainbow color order (hey – people will love it!)
- Dust your photo frames and ornaments
- Clean light switches (DRY cloth please!)
OK you get the idea. I obviously think your house is filthy and in need of a good clean.
None of the above jobs should take more than 5 minutes. Well, maybe the dishes, but they need doing anyway, so this “exercise” is not adding to your time.
Back Pain Stretches
Now it’s a good idea to do some gentle stretches that will take only seconds.
You can choose one, two or all three of the following:
- Either standing or sitting, slowly rest your chin on your chest. If you are sitting, ensure you have something supporting your lumbar spine, such as a small cushion. And rest into it for a few seconds. Slowly lift your head back up. Don’t do this exercise suddenly; always do it slowly.
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Now roll forward until your torso is resting on your thighs, and your arms are hanging down. Your hands should be able to touch the floor. Hold for about 10 seconds. To get up, push with your hands on your thighs or the chair.
- Sit on the floor, lift up your knees and hug your arms around your knees. Put your head down.
The last two of the above stretches round the back, in order to stretch it. The first one rounds the upper back.
Ideally, you will benefit most if you do these stretches and back exercises throughout the day. I work from home, so I go for walks with the dog and do little household chores to prevent being at the computer for too long.
For further great tips of managing back pain while at the computer, see The Top 10 ways to prevent back pain while sitting blog post.
If you were to do these gentle back exercises every day for three or four weeks, you will have strengthened your back enough to start on the abdominal muscles. But they should be as well as these exercises, not instead of them.
Walking the Dog image by Ewan and Donabel