Doctors estimate that 80% of Americans will experience lower back pain sometime in their lives, myself included for the last decade. The pain can be crippling, limiting your day-to-day activities so that even standing up or sitting down can be painful. Trust me, I’ve been there. I get back spasms regularly and they’re not fun. But with Anel’s help, I get them much less often than I used to.
In most cases, lower back pain is caused by stress or minor injuries, and it can be alleviated by strengthening those two groups of muscles. However, sometimes the cause can be more complex, such as herniated or slipped discs, spinal stenosis, or degenerative arthritis. In these cases, seeing a specialist or physical therapist is a must.
These are the exercises that Anel recommends for clients with back pain. I practice these exercises 2-3x/week to strengthen both my lower back and my core which, in turn, supports my lower back.
Anel, take it away! And guys, let us know what kind of fitness content you want from him next month. He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the human body so anything is fair game.
Strengthen your core
Your lower back is not supposed to support your core entirely and if it has to, the muscles in the lower back are being overused. Try adding a plank into your daily routine.
Balance on your forearms and toes, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders. Keep your core tight and strong.
Work your upper back
Bad posture can put a strain on your lower back and, unfortunately, these days, we are often hunched over a computer or staring down at our smartphones. Working the muscles in your upper back (rhomboids, trapezius) can help to pull your shoulders back, forcing you to stand/sit up straighter. Placing your spine in a neutral position relieves any tension in your lower back.
This exercise strengthens your upper back. Start on your stomach. Pinch between your shoulder blades and lift your arms up about 6-10 in off the floor. Next, squeeze your glutes and lift your feet about 6 in from the ground. Keep your spine straight by looking toward the ground. Hold for 1 minute.
Be very careful with this exercise. By not properly engaging the right muscles you will begin to feel your lower back tighten. If that happens, relax your body for 30 seconds and go back into it but only holding for 10 seconds at a time. Over time, as your back gets stronger and you learn to fire the right muscles, start adding more time to the holds. If you have any disc issues, skip this one.
Work your lower back
People are often afraid that working their lower back muscles will make them hurt even more. At Countdown, we try to get those muscles stronger so that they can be a sidekick to the abdomen in support of your spine. Here are a few exercises that you can do that are safe and efficient.
For all three of them, begin on your hands and knees. Make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders, and your knees are directly under your hips, forming a flat tabletop with your back.
Extend one leg backward, keeping the knee straight and your toes pointed. Now, extend the opposite arm straight forward. Look straight down at the floor, keeping your spine straight. Don’t let your foot go more than a few inches above your hips and don’t let your hand go above shoulder height. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat four times.
Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. 1. The Cat: Inhale deeply. On the exhale, round your spine up towards the ceiling and imagine you’re pulling your belly button up towards your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin towards your chest and let your neck release. 2. The Cow: On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax and be loose. Lift your head and tailbone up towards the sky, without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck.
Note: If any of these exercises hurt in a bad way, stop immediately.