Exercises To Relieve Low Back Pain

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Exercises To Relieve Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain
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Exercises To Relieve Low Back Pain
Exercises To Relieve Low Back Pain
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Try these exercises to strengthen the muscles of the back, legs and stomach.
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InteliHealth
2009-11-19
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2011-11-19

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Exercises To Relieve Low Back Pain
By Rhonda B. Graham
InteliHealth Staff Writer

 

One of the possible remedies for low back pain is moderate exercise that focuses on strengthening the muscles of the back, legs and stomach.
Knowing the suspected cause of your low back pain might help in deciding which exercises might benefit you. Be aware that some causes of low back pain require prompt medical evaluation and treatment, rather than exercise alone. Causes that require prompt attention include inflammatory arthritis of the lower back, cancer, bacterial infections of the bones or disks and organ-related pain (from kidney stones to fibroids to inflammation of the intestines). For most people with low back pain, however, no definitive cause is ever found, says Robert Shmerling, M.D., associate physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
The tricky thing about low back pain is that it can get better completely without medical treatment or it may stubbornly resist treatment and persist for years. Although most people improve, low back pain returns in about 40 percent of cases, Dr. Shmerling says. "We often don't know if it's going to get better quickly or last a long time," he adds.
Certain exercises can be a way to reduce the chance that pain will return and to manage ongoing pain, he says. In some cases, just doing the routines can prevent a recurrence.
Here are some exercises commonly recommended by Dr. Shmerling and other physicians. Before starting these routines, check with your doctor. Specifically, ask how many times a week you should perform the exercises.
If your muscles are tight, take a warm shower or bath before performing any of these exercises. Wear loose clothing and use a rug or mat. Do not wear shoes.
Stop and consult with your doctor if you feel any discomfort, if your back pain increases or if any tingling, numbness or weakness occurs in your legs.

 

Single knee-to-chest stretch. The purpose of the single knee-to-chest stretch is to stretch the lower back and hamstrings and strengthen the stomach and hip-flexing muscles.
  • Lie on your back.
  • Pull one knee into your chest until you feel a comfortable stretch in your lower back.
  • Keep the opposite leg straight and the back relaxed.
  • Hold for three to five seconds.
  • Repeat five times with each leg.

 

Double knee-to-chest stretch. The purpose of the double knee-to-chest stretch is to stretch the lower back and hamstring muscles and relieve pressure on bone facets, where vertebrae come together.
  • Lie on your back with both knees bent, your feet on the floor and your arms at your sides.
  • Clasp your hands around both knees, pulling them firmly to your chest until you feel a comfortable stretch in your lower back.
  • Hold for three to five seconds.
  • Repeat five times.

 

Pelvic lift. The purpose of the pelvic lift is to strengthen the gluteal (buttocks) and abdominal muscles and flatten the spine.
  • Lie on your back with your knees flexed and your feet flat on the floor as close to the buttocks as possible. Keep the knees together.
  • Tighten the muscles of your lower abdomen and buttocks so as to flatten your lower back against the floor.
  • Slowly raise your hips up from the floor and hold for a slow count of five.
  • Repeat five times.

 

Pelvic tilt. The purpose of the pelvic tilt is to gently move the spine and stretch the lower back.
  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on floor and your palms down at your sides.
  • Tighten your belly, abdominal and buttock muscles so as to flatten the small of your back against the floor. (Your hips will tilt upward.)
  • Hold for three to five seconds and release.
  • Repeat five times.

 

Hamstring stretch. The purpose of the hamstring stretch is to strengthen the gluteal (buttocks) and abdominal muscles and flatten the spine.
  • Lie on your back with a belt or strap placed around one foot.
  • Slowly lift that leg, keeping your knee straight.
  • Hold for five seconds.
  • Repeat five times with each leg.

 

Hamstring stretch while standing. The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen the gluteal (buttocks) and abdominal muscles and flatten the spine.
  • Stand on your right leg with your left leg on a table or chair.
  • Stretch your hamstring by slowly bending your right knee.
  • Hold for 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Switch to your other leg.

 

Lower trunk rotation stretch. The purpose of the lower trunk rotation stretch is to stretch the hips and the rotator muscles of the lower and midback and stretch the ligaments that support your disks.
  • Lie on your back.
  • Slowly raise one leg, bringing it to the opposite side of your body until you feel the stretch.
  • Hold for 45 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat five times with each leg.
  • Repeat five times with both knees together.

 

Alternate leg extension. The purpose of the alternate leg extension is to strengthens your gluteal (buttocks) and abdominal muscles and flatten the spine.
  • Lie on your stomach with your arms folded under your chin.
  • Slowly lift one leg — not too high — without bending it, while keeping your pelvis flat on the floor.
  • Slowly lower your leg.
  • Switch to your other leg.
  • Repeat 10 times for each leg.

 

Lumbar extension. The purpose of the lumbar extension is to extend the muscles in your lower back.
  • Lie on your stomach and place your hands on the floor near the sides of your head.
  • Slowly push your upper body off the floor by straightening your arms, but keep your hips on the floor.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Relax your arms, moving back to the floor.
  • Repeat five times.

 

Side stretch. The purpose of the side stretch is to stretch and strengthen your back and supporting muscles.
  • Stand with your feet apart and both hands on top of your head.
  • Bend sideways and slightly forward until you feel tension along the opposite side of your body.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds while inhaling and exhaling deeply.
  • Do three to five repetitions on each side.

 

Chair stretch. The purpose of this exercise is to stretch and strengthen your back and supporting muscle. Do not do this exercise if you have osteoporosis.
  • Sit in a chair. Slowly bend forward toward the floor until you feel a mild stretch in your back.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat three or four times.

 

Leg lift. The leg lift is a strengthening exercise.
  • Lie face down on a firm surface with a large pillow under your hips and lower abdomen.
  • With the knee bent, raise one leg slightly off the surface and hold for about five seconds.
  • Repeat five to 10 times with each leg.
  • Repeat the exercise with each leg straight.

 

Extension: press-ups. The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen your lower back muscles and stretch your stomach muscles and ligaments.
  • Lie face down with your hands beside your shoulders and your palms flat on the floor.
  • Gently lift your shoulders and chest, propping yourself up on your elbows. Keep your lower body relaxed. Keep your hips pressed to the floor.
  • Feel the stretch in your lower back.
  • Slowly lower your upper body to the floor.
  • Start with three repetitions, and work your way up to 10.

 

Exercises To Avoid
Many exercises actually increase your risk of low back pain. Because of this, you should avoid the following:
  • Straight leg sit-ups
  • Bent leg sit-ups during acute back pain (These may be safe if your back is kept in a neutral position.)
  • Leg lifts (lifting both legs while lying on your back)
  • Lifting heavy weights above your waist (military press, biceps curls while standing)
  • Any stretching done while sitting with your legs in a V position
  • Toe touches while standing

 

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Last updated July 08, 2013


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