We all will complain about lower back pain at some point in our lives. The frenetic lifestyle we have today often means we do not get enough exercise to strengthen the muscles that support our lower back. Sitting for many hours, whether it is at a desk or behind a stirring wheel, often taking on a bad posture, will undoubtedly make the condition worse. We simply don’t use our rear chain muscles enough for them to support our lower back. In time this will weaken the muscles in question and cause the pain.
There are many reasons why we suffer from lower back pain. My suggestion is that you see your doctor about it as soon as possible if it stops you from doing your normal daily activities. It is always recommended to exclude any serious injuries before trying to do anything else to help the discomfort. If nothing serious is causing the pain, the most reasonable thing to do is to keep your lower back as strong, mobile and flexible as possible. This can be achieved by gentle stretching and strengthening exercises. These tend to stretch the muscles around your lower back that tense up causing the pain, and strengthen the ones that have become weak.
Please, always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine. If at any point you feel pain or discomfort during exercises, stop immediately and consult your doctor.
Before you start any kind of exercise, warm your muscles by doing some cardio vascular exercise for about 8-10 minutes, or until you start feeling considerably hot. After that, stretch your muscles gently without bouncing. Ease into each stretch until you feel a slight pull to your muscle, stop at that point and hold that position for 20-30 seconds.
Here are some easy to follow strengthening and stretching exercises:
1. Lower Abs Strengthening
When your lower abs are weak it brings tension to your lower back which can result in pain. These two muscles work together as a pair. This is a very gentle exercise that aims to strengthen the lower abdominal muscles.
Lying on your back with your legs extended, breath in then slowly breath out whilst drawing one knee towards your chest. Breath out lowering your leg back to the floor to start position. Repeat the same with your other leg.
Repeat on each side 10 times for 3 sets
2. Transverse Abdominis Strengthening
This involves strengthening the deeper abdominal muscles.
Lie on the floor with your knees bent, feet hip width apart and a small pillow under your head (or place your hands under your head). Relax your body. Breath in drawing your bellybutton towards your spine. Hold this position for 5– 10 seconds. Breath out relaxing your tummy muscles.
Repeat this 10 times for 3 sets
3. Box Reach
Particularly good for lower back mobilisation, this exercise is one of my favourite ones. It looks so simple but can be really tricky to execute correctly. I have a lot of fun with my clients practising it until we get it right.
Start on all fours, knees hip width and hands shoulder width apart, back straight and neck in line with your spine. Take a deep breath in then breath out slowly bringing out one arm in front of you and extending out the opposite leg behind you. Your arm, back and leg should be aligned. Breathing in, take your arm and leg back to starting position. Do the same on other side.
Repeat this exercise 10 times on each side for 3 sets
4. Glute Bridge
An other one of my favourites is the glute bridge. This one is also great for lower back mobilisation. Start by lying on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor hip width apart. Take a breath in, then breathing out contract your glutes (your booty muscles) and raise them off the floor so that you have a straight line from your shoulders through your hips and to your knees. Hold for 20 seconds. Breath in lowering your glutes back to the floor.
Repeat 10 times for 3 sets
5. Cat Stretch
This exercise is good for lower back mobilisation and to improve flexibility.
Start on all fours, hands directly under your shoulders, shoulder width apart and knees directly under your hips, hip width apart. Keep your spine straight to start with. Breathing in then as you breath out arch your back bringing your bellybutton towards the floor and your bottom towards your heels. Hold for 20 seconds. Breath in bringing your spine to a neutral position again. Breathing out, arch your back towards the ceiling like an angry cat. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Breath in bringing your spine back to neutral position.
Repeat both positions 10 times for 3 sets
6. Piriformis Stretch
The Piriformis is a muscle in your butt that can cause lower back tension and pain if it is tense.
To stretch this muscle, lie on your back with your right ankle on your left knee. Take a deep breath in grabbing your left thigh. Breathing out, pull your left thigh towards your chest and hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Do the same crossing your left ankle over your right knee, pulling your right thigh towards your chest.
Repeat 10 times on each side for 3 sets
7. Hip Stretch
Tight hip flexors can cause your lumbar spine to arch excessively causing pain.
To stretch this muscle start by kneeling with one leg on the floor and your other foot right in front of you in a 90 degree angle. Tilt your pelvis forwards then breathing out, shift your bodyweight forwards leaning against the foot in front of you. Breath in and return to start position. Do the same with your other side.
Repeat on both sides 10 times for 3 sets
8. Spine Rotation Stretch
I love leaving this one to the end as I feel it gives the spine a good final stretch.
Start lying on the floor, arms extended outwards to your sides, knees bent, feet together. Take a deep breath in, as you slowly breath out, let your knees flop to one side and look in the opposite direction. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Breath in and take your knees back up to the centre. Breath out slowly and do the same on the other side.
Repeat 10 times on each side for 3 sets
Aim Train Gain!