If you’re experiencing lower back pain, it may be beneficial to incorporate some stretching and strength-building exercises into your routine. Strengthening the back muscles better supports your spine, which can relieve pressure and pain.
However, not all exercises are beneficial for back pain sufferers, and care should always be taken. In fact, some exercises may actually be harmful. Avoid any exercises that put pressure in the wrong places or which strain your back, such as sit-ups and toe-touches. Twisting movements may also be harmful, depending on your specific pain points.
Here are some of the best exercises to do a few times a week to help ease pain in the back. The best part about all of these exercises is that they don’t require any special equipment or guidance. All you need is a video tutorial and a yoga mat. Make sure to always consult with your physician before taking on any new exercise regimen and be sure to consider all your back pain treatment options.
Bridges are lower back exercises that can help you strengthen your core and lower back. The gentle stretching movement also helps you relieve any tension and stiffness in your problem areas. To do a bridge, lie flat on your back with your knees bent, hip-distance apart with your feet flat on the floor or your mat. Slowly curl your tailbone under and roll your back up, one backbone at a time. Aim for a flat back when your bottom is lifted.
2. Bird Dogs
Bird dogs are simple activities that target the lower back, engaging the core and back muscles simultaneously. Start with your hands and knees placed squarely on the floor or your yoga mat. Make sure your knees are hip distance apart and your arms are in line with your shoulders. Extend one foot straight back and reach the opposite arm out in front of you. You can also crunch your elbow into your knee and then extend for a gentle stretching and strengthening activity.
3. Cat-Cow Stretches
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you know that the cat portion of the cat-cow exercise involves arching your back upward like a scared cat. The cow portion of the exercise—when the belly drops and the head and shoulders rise to the sky—can also be beneficial for those with low back issues, but take this part with caution. For some, the cat portion of this stretch can trigger sensitive muscles.
4. Press Ups
Also called prone props, this exercise involves propping yourself up with your hands or elbows and gently raising the back, neck and shoulders until you get a nice, long stretch in the back. This is an excellent movement for those who feel stiff in the upper back, too, as it targets a number of muscles in the shoulders and throughout the entire back. It will also help strengthen the core, so it’s generally a great way to enhance your routine.
5. Dead Bug
Another great workout for the back and core, the dead bug helps to train the body to stabilize the spine during movement. This leads to better balance and more spine support, which, in turn, leads to a reduction in injury. To do the dead bug, start lying on your back. Bring your knees up to a 90-degree angle and raise your arms, keeping them straight. Lower the left arm and extend the right leg at the same time (as shown in the tutorial below) alternating from one side to the next.
Go at Your Own Pace and Trust Your Body
If you’re experiencing lingering pain, consider combining your strengthening and stretching routine with alternative therapies to support your long-term pain mitigation goals. For example, you may want to consider trying laser therapy for back pain for temporary relief of minor muscle and joint aches. A laser therapy belt can treat stiffness, muscle spasms, and pain associated with arthritis, all without any reported adverse side effects.