The Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the most common conditions that we treat in our acupuncture clinics. It can be caused by muscle strain, spasms, pinched nerves, prolapsed discs, or degenerative conditions. Sometimes a painful lower back is simply a sign of poor posture or sitting too much.
Acupuncture benefits back pain in several ways. Firstly, it can help to relax the muscles in the painful area to relieve tension and spasms. It also influences the way that your brain processes pain signals and triggers the release of endorphins, your body’s all-natural version of morphine. These effects not only relieve pain, but also bring about a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing.
Although acupuncture usually offers some respite from back pain within a few sessions, you might find that you need some extra pain relief between appointments. Fortunately, there are many different back stretches and back pain exercises that you can try at home.
Even if you are not currently suffering from lower back pain, these exercises are a great way to keep your core muscles strong and your back healthy, both now and in the future.
What are the Core Muscles?
Most back pain exercises involve strengthening your core muscles. This group of muscles includes your abdominal muscles, the muscles in your lower back, and your glutes (the group of muscles located under your buttocks).
These muscles wrap around your body and keep it strong, supported, and stable. When they become weakened, problems such as bad posture and back pain can easily occur. Luckily, there are plenty of exercises and stretches for back pain that work to strengthen your core muscles. When you do these exercises regularly, they could help to alleviate your symptoms and prevent them from happening again.
5 Simple Back Pain Exercises to Try at Home
If your back is hurting, you may not feel like exercising, but moving your body is one of the best things you can do. However, it is important to take it slowly and know your limits. While it is normal to feel some mild discomfort while you perform your back stretches, you should stop if it becomes painful at any point.
Start off by doing your exercises for the minimum recommended time, and build up gradually. We also recommend that you speak to your doctor or physical therapist before embarking on any new exercise routine.
These exercises for lower back pain are easy to do at home and can really help to relieve your symptoms. They work best when combined with other low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, and Pilates.
- Deep Abdominal Strengthening
This is one of the simplest back pain exercises you can do. It works to gently strengthen your core muscles and is surprisingly relaxing too!
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Use a small flat pillow or book to support your head if necessary.
- Breathe in deeply, and as you breathe out, tighten your abdominal muscles, pulling your belly button toward the ground.
- Hold for five seconds and then release.
- Repeat this exercise 5–10 times.
- Pelvic Tilts
Pelvic tilts are one of the most effective stretches for back pain. Like deep abdominal strengthening, they work to strengthen your core and relieve aches and pains.
- Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your arms by your sides, upper body relaxed, and chin tucked in.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your lower back into the floor
- Allow your pelvis to tilt toward your heels. You should feel your back gently arch.
- Hold for five seconds then return to the starting position.
- Repeat this exercise 10–15 times.
- Knee Rolls
This exercise is great for improving flexibility in the lower back and preventing pain.
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Stretch your arms out to either side to make a ‘T’ shape.
- Keep your upper body relaxed, shoulders flat on the floor, and chin tucked in.
- Keeping your knees bent and together, allow them to roll over to one side.
- Hold the stretch for five seconds.
- Return to the starting position by pressing your arms into the floor and lifting your knees.
- Repeat the exercise 8–10 times, alternating between left and right.
- Knee to Chest
This exercise is another great way to stretch out your lower back to improve flexibility and relieve pain.
- Lie with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent.
- Slowly bring one knee up to your chest, keeping your other foot flat and your lower back against the floor.
- Hold for 15–30 seconds.
- Slowly lower your leg back to its starting position and repeat with the other side.
- Repeat the exercise 2–4 times on each side.
This famous yoga pose is a great stretch for strengthening your core muscles, especially your glutes.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, around hip width apart.
- Squeeze your buttocks and gently lift your lower back so that your shoulders, hips, and knees are in line.
- Keep your abdominal muscles tight. They should be doing the hard work, not your lower back.
- Hold for 5–10 seconds then slowly lower yourself back down.
- Repeat the stretch 5–10 times, resting for up to a minute between each repetition.
How do I Know if My Back Pain Exercises are Working?
If you are performing your exercises for lower back pain correctly and on a daily basis, you should start to see some improvements within about two weeks. Most people find that acute lower back pain disappears after 4–6 weeks providing they stay active and take care not to overdo it.
If you do not see any improvements within this time frame, or if your pain becomes more severe, talk to your healthcare provider to arrange an assessment and discuss your options.