Best DIY Exercises To Reduce Back Pain
Over the last few decades, there has been a significant increase in those who suffer from chronic lower back pain. In a study, it was shown that back pain is the 'leading cause of disability,' affecting nearly one in 10 people and becoming more common with increasing age. Even though the prevalence of chronic lower back pain is high, some of the common causes of back pain are actually due to issues with the ways the body moves and mechanises issues, rather than an actual serious illness. This means, that through the use of lower back exercise, stretching and strengthening and rehabilitative exercises, the presence of back pain can be drastically reduced, or in some cases, completely eliminated. It is, however, important that your lower back pain is correctly diagnosed so you can implement and create the correct treatment plan specific to your needs.
Common lower back injuries and pain
Lower back pain can be the result of a variety of things, such as from chronic repetitive movement that can cause issues like a pinched nerve or acute injury like a bulging disc. Alternatively, tight or weak muscles belonging to a major muscle group can cause recurring pain. Regardless of the actual cause, the outcome and objective are the same; to eliminate and reduce the pain. Some of these injuries will require outside help from a trained medical professional, such as a spinal physician or a chiropractor. Other injuries, such as those issues related to tight or weak muscles, can be treated through a variety of lower back stretches and exercises.
Degenerative disc disease
This is one of the leading causes of lower back pain. Degenerative disc disease is when the spinal discs that act as shock absorbers for the vertebrae naturally degenerate over a period as you get older. The pain is most prominent in the lower back or cervical spine and can also be related to other issues such as osteoarthritis or a herniated disc.
Muscle or ligament strain
Ligament and muscle strains are extremely common and often occur when our muscles are over-stretched. This can be caused by extreme physical exertion which can weaken the lower back muscles, creating instability in the spine and subsequently causing pain. It can also be caused by lifting an object which is too heavy or falling. In these cases, the best treatment options include anti-inflammatory medication, rest and light stretching to help improve overall muscle tone and strength.
Pinched or compressed nerve
This is caused by a nerve being compressed between bone, ligament and tendons, either through being held in a position for a long period of time or an uncomfortable repetitive motion. Treatments can range from physical therapy, surgery or medication. It all depends on the individual case and the severity of the issue.
Lack of exercise
Humans are naturally meant to move, however, sometimes there are barriers in life that can restrict our level of movements, such as lifestyle factors, health issues or our joints and muscles become weak and tight over time. This is how the pain develops over a period of time. However, if your lower back pain is caused by a lack of exercise or movement, the treatment is quite simple. If you focus on stretches and lower back exercises, you will often see significant changes in your pain levels or the pain completely eradicated.
Top benefits of a strong, flexible lower back
1. Improved posture and spinal stability
The muscles that form a column that runs alongside our spine assist other muscles within our bodies, such as the obliques, hip flexors and abdominals, by holding the body in an upright position. When we strengthen these various muscles, we naturally improve our stability and posture by increasing our muscular activation and endurance.
2. Improve balance
Balance is a vital tool. Just learning to walk upright has enabled us to adapt better to our surroundings. We have been able to advance and expand our capabilities via sports such as Cross Fit or gymnastics. These types of activities showcase the balances that can come from a strong back and core.
3. Build lean muscle
It's true that muscle weighs more than fat, but as you build more muscle through weightlifting and bodyweight strength training, your body needs more fuel to help sustain itself. Fat is another form of fuel, so when we combine proper nutrition with strength training, we will not only experience weight loss, but we will also build lean muscle.
4. Reduce back pain
We have mentioned before that a lack of exercise can result in lower back pain through tight muscles and muscle strains. Therefore, when we bring exercise into our daily lives, we reduce our chances of developing back pain dramatically, as well as improving our generall overall health.
The best lower back exercises
We've put together a list of some of the top exercises you can do to strengthen your lower back:
1. Arch hold
Begin on your stomach with your arms extended overhead and legs straight. Then lift your chest and legs to create a banana-type shape with your body. Try to stay long and extend your biceps to your ears. Make sure you keep squeezing your butt to help create tension and strength along the back. Aim to stay in this position for 30 seconds, rest then repeat two to three more times.
2. Swimmer kicks
From your previous arch hold, begin to make small kicking movements with the legs and arms. This will help bring dynamic movement to your arch position. Aim to do 50 repetitions of these kicks.
3. Forearm plank
Take a normal plank position and then drop down to your forearms. Drive your forearms towards the floor as you pull your belly button up to your spine. Squeeze your butt and engage your legs and aim to keep this position for one minute, rest and then repeat twice.
Best lower back stretches
Below are listed some of the top lower back stretches to help minimise and eradicate lower back pain:
1. Seated forward fold
This stretch requires that you sit tall with your legs straight out in front and you curl your toes toward your shin. Next, reach your arm straight over your head as far up as you can stretch and fold down towards your toes. Continue this position by extending your chest towards your toe. Remember to breathe deeply. Hopefully, you will feel a deep strength in your lower back as well as the back of your legs.
2. Cat and cow
Begin on your hands and knees then press through your hands as you round your upper back. Next, pull your chin into your chest as you widen your upper back into a cat pose. Try to draw your belly button down to the floor and as you draw your shoulder blades together, transform into cow pose. Continue to move back and forth between these the cat and cow pose at least 10 times.
3. Reclined spinal twist
Lie down on your back with your leg extended straight on the floor. Next, draw your non-extended knee towards your chest then shift your hips to the right or left (dependent on knee) and let your chosen knee fall in the opposite direction. Breathe deeply and allow your body to relax into the twist. Aim to hold this position for one minute, then switch to the alternative side.
Always be mindful before you embark on any new exercise regime. Remember to build up slowly by introducing exercise in weekly and start with lower reps. As you build awareness and strength you can increase the reps. If it is too painful, then don't continue and remember to ensure you are properly aligned when performing exercises as this can affect the outcome of their success in reducing lower back pain.