8 Safe and Effective Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can be highly debilitating. Your lower back provides support for the weight of your upper body, as well as the hip motion used when walking. When your lower back is in pain, it can make even the smallest movement feel like a monumental effort. According to John Peloza, MD, writing for Spine-Health, lower back pain can result from injury to the muscles, discs, ligaments, or joints in the lower back, including your hips. Pain in the lower back region can also be caused by the piriformis muscle, which can also cause pain in the buttock and the back of the leg, due to its proximity to the sciatic nerve.

The main causes of lower back pain, according to John Peloza, are muscle or ligament strain. According to Healthline, muscle strain occurs “when your muscle is overstretched or torn.” This can be caused over time by repetitive movements or can occur suddenly due to injury. Though John Peloza notes that muscle and ligament strains do not usually cause long-lasting pain, “the acute pain can be quite severe.” In the case of sacroiliac joint dysfunction, if the sacroiliac joint becomes irritated for any reason, it can also affect the structure of the piriformis muscle, which in turn affects the adjacent sciatic muscle causing further pain down the leg.

Luckily, there are some simple yet effective stretches that you can do every day to help relieve lower back pain and also prevent it from happening in the future. Kojo Hamilton, MD, writing for Spinal-Health notes that “stretching low back and lower body muscles can alleviate tension, reduce pain, and better support the spine.” In the case of sciatic pain, low impact exercise and stretching is typically more effective in treating the pain than bed rest, according to Physical Therapist Ron S. Miller, a contributor to Spinal-Health.

Doing these stretches on a regular basis should help to alleviate lower back pain and keep your back muscles and spine in good shape. However, keep in mind that you should consult your physician before beginning any exercise program, especially when dealing with any existing or ongoing pain.

1. Knees to Chest Stretch: This one is fairly self-explanatory, and also very easy to do. However, while this exercise is a simple one, it is also highly effective at preventing lower back pain. Begin by lying on your back with your knees raised and your feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg toward your chest until you can grasp it with your hands just below the knee.

According to Anne Asher, CPT, you should keep your muscles relaxed as much as possible while doing this, as “The knees-to-chest better reaches low back muscles when used passively.” The knees to chest stretch can be done one or two legs at a time, however, Asher recommends pulling one leg up at a time as raising both legs requires a greater amount of abdominal strength.

2. Child’s Pose: This common yoga pose not only helps to alleviate back pain but also helps with sacroiliac instability, which can aid in the prevention of sciatica. According to Anne Asher, using a pillow between your thighs and lower legs during the pose and spending only a few moments at a time in child’s pose will relax tension around the sacroiliac area.

To perform the child’s pose, start from a kneeling position and keep your big toes together as you move your knees further apart. Bring your stomach to rest on your thighs and reach your arms forward, resting your forehead on the floor. According to Asher, this might feel difficult at first for those with hip or lower back tightness, but it will eventually relax the muscles and feel very soothing. Just go at your own pace and avoid overexertion.

3. Seated Piriformis Stretch: The piriformis muscle, as mentioned above, can become sore or tight, causing lower back pain and possible sciatica. This usually occurs due to sitting for long periods of time. However, stretching the piriformis muscle can aid in the prevention of lower back and leg pain. The seated piriformis stretch is a simple, low impact stretch that benefits the hidden muscles.

To do this stretch, seat yourself on the floor and cross your left leg over your right thigh. Keep your left foot next to your right thigh and pull your right foot in toward your buttocks. Brace your left leg with your right arm and rotate slowly to your left, being sure not to overextend. Hold the stretch for about 20 seconds then switch sides.

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