Whether you are a couch potato, weekend athlete or even a competitive athlete, you have likely suffered from lower back pain. In fact, about 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes, according to the National Institutes for Health.
“It’s a common problem,” says Dr. Kathy Vidlock, a primary care sports medicine physician with Colorado Orthopaedics in Lone Tree. “But, most of the time the pain arises from issues with muscles and not the spine. Typically, stretching and strengthening those muscles helps alleviate the pain and prevents future problems.”
Vidlock, who specializes in non-operative sports injuries, recommends the five stretching and strengthening exercises below to reduce lower back pain.
Before you get started:
- Develop a routine: Do the exercises three to four times per week. Note, doing them less is better than not at all.
- Stretch then strengthen: Start with gentle stretching, especially if you are recovering from a flare up. The movements will help loosen muscles and increase their range of motion. It may take a few days to a few weeks. Once stretching is easier, add the strengthening exercises.
- See a physician if your back does not improve or if you feel severe pain.
Knees to Chest
For the muscles on the sides of the spine.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull one knee toward your chest and hold 10 seconds. Repeat with the opposite leg. Do three sets.
Lying Knee Twist
For the lower back muscles and the sacroiliac joint, or SI joint.
Lie on your back with legs straight. Bend your left knee and raise your foot 90 degrees. Grab your left knee with your right hand and pull the knee across to the right side into a gentle twist. Be sure to keep your left shoulder on the ground. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with opposite leg. Do three sets.
For the abdominal and core muscles.
Lie on your stomach with arms bent under shoulders, palms and forearms on the ground, fingers pointed forward, legs extended and toes tucked under. Keeping palms and forearms on the ground, tighten your abdominal muscles and slowly lift your entire torso, thighs and knees off the floor. Bring palms together. Keep your body in a straight line (plank) being careful not to arch or sag your lower back or shrug your shoulders. Breathe and tighten your abdominal muscles while in the plank position. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, gradually building up to one minute.
Modified Plank (Easier) – Same as above but only lift your torso and allow your knees to rest on the floor. Tighten abdominal muscles. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, gradually building up to one minute and eventually to the full front plank.
For the deep abdominal muscle (quadratus lumborum) and side muscles that support your lower back.
Lie on your right side with your right elbow directly below your shoulder, forearm at a right angle to your body, extend your legs and keep feet together. Tighten your abdominals and lift your hips and knees off the floor until your body is in a straight line from head to toes. Do not let your hips droop. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, gradually building up to one minute. Repeat on the other side.
Modified Side Plank (Easier) – Same as above but allow your right knee to rest on the floor while the hip is lifted. Keep abdominals tight. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, gradually building up to one minute and eventually to the full side plank.
For the glutes and back support.
Lie on your back with your hands by your side palms facing down, knees bent and feet together flat on the floor. Keeping your shoulder blades on the floor, push your heels into the floor, tighten your buttocks and abdominals and lift your hips off the floor until your shoulders, hips and knees make a straight line. Don’t arch your lower back. Hold for 10 seconds. Release and repeat 5 to 10 times.
Modified Bridge Up (Advanced)
After assuming bridge up position, lift one leg straight to a 45 degree angle. Keep your abdominals tight, hips lifted but not arched, and other foot steady. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, gradually building up to one minute.
Tags: spine care
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