Minor aches and pains in the back can occur quickly and without warning but back pain can also become chronic where movement is restricted too. Chronic pain impacts life greatly and once a back injury occurs, there is a greater risk of it happening again. Both physical and emotional triggers should be considered when it comes to healing and prevention.
Most back pain problems can be resolved completely. Often, it is irritation or injury to the muscles or ligaments, but disc problems are common. They act as a cushion between the vertebrae and at times, may bulge outwards or break through affecting the nerves. Even if the disc does not directly impact the nerves, chemicals may be released, increasing sensitivity. Stress can also lead to tightened muscles and this intensifies pain emanating from any problem area. In most cases, exercise is useful for back pain however, medical advice should be sought and care taken to not overdo it.
Try these 7 effective exercises daily.
1. Hamstring Stretches
Hamstring problems are common, but it is important that flexibility is worked on as the muscle groups aid bending and flexing the knee but, the hamstrings also help extend the legs when running or walking. By stretching and increasing flexibility of the hamstrings, it is possible to prevent injury, improve mobility as well as easing lower back pain.
This is a simple hamstring stretch. Begin in a standing position, crossing the right foot over the left. Then, bend from the waist, lowering the forehead to the right knee. It is important to not strain, but simply stretch the back. Keep both legs straight. In your maximum position holds and relax into the pose for 15 to 30 seconds. Come out of the pose and then cross the left foot in front of the right and repeat.
2. Single Chest to Knee Exercise
Always monitor movement in and out of any posture and if pain is experienced, reduce the stretch. This pose restores flexibility in the lower back and reduces stiffness that may be associated with arthritic conditions.
Lie on the back on a firm surface with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee to the chest. The aim is to keep the other foot pressed against the floor and to push the lower back into the surface. Hold this position for approximately 15-seconds. Lower the leg back to the floor and then repeat on the other side. It’s important to repeat four times with each leg. If an extended stretch is required, keep one leg straight and flat on the floor while the other knee is brought towards the chest.
3. Double Knee to the Chest Exercise
This exercise is similar but this time, both knees are brought up to the chest. Place the arms around the knees and hold. This stretch relieves tension. Massage the spine by gently rocking back and forth.
4. Psoas Stretches
The psoas connects the lumbar vertebrae to the femur and the psoas major is the strongest of the hip flexors. It is easy for the hip flexors to tighten which impacts posture. It can pull the lower vertebrae forwards and towards the hips which leads to the lumbar spine overarching. This can be painful and lead to arthritis in the lumbar facet joints. Weak or overstretched psoas are also problematic. The psoas stabilizes the spine and trunk and support the internal organs which allows blood and lymph to be pushed in and out of the cells.
Kneel on one leg with knees at right angles as if about to stand up. Keep the back straight and tuck the tailbone under, squeezing the glute muscles, shifting the hips forward. Feel that stretch and hold for approximately 20-seconds and ensure even deep breathing throughout. Then switch legs and repeat the process. This can be repeated several times daily.
5. Spine Stretches
Increasing strength and flexibility is important as it helps prevent back pain and injury as well as aiding the healing process. Pay attention to posture within the stretch.
Sit on the floor and move the feet so they are wider than the hips. The back should be straight. Bend the head forward, beginning to roll down the spine and bring the head towards the chest. Slide the hands in front and bend forward. This helps to elongate the muscles beside the spine and feel the stretch through the calf muscles and hamstrings. Do not attempt to push hands beyond the toes. Return to a seated pose. Repeat as necessary.
6. Quadriceps Stretch
Four muscles make up the quadriceps and they are located at the front and back of the thigh. These muscles often become tight. The standing quad stretch is very versatile and can be executed anywhere.
Hold onto the wall or on the back of a chair so to ensure strong balance. Take one leg back, holding the ankle, bending the knee as far as is possible without pain. The stretch should be felt in the thigh. Hold this position for approximately 30-seconds and then return to a standing position. Alternate sides and perform up to 5-times a day on each leg.
7. Downward Dog Pose
Downward dog pose is one of the stable poses of yoga. If flexibility is limited, try half downward dog pose against the wall as a useful alternative. It can help to release any lower back pain and eases stress in the neck and shoulders too.
Facing a wall, place the hands on the wall at approximately shoulder or elbow height. For a greater stretch, move the hands to elbow height. Press through the palms of the hands as if pushing into the wall and elongate the back. Push the hips backwards but stretch through the hands. Breathe deeply and come up slowly.
Back care is vital when you consider that the spine supports the upper body - including the weight of the head. A healthy back enables movement forwards, backwards and sideways too and it is often taken for granted until back pain occurs. Prevention is everything.