Lower back pain can range from annoying to debilitating and nowadays it starting to affect not only adults but schoolchildren too. We spend too much time sitting: glued to our PCs at work and at home, sitting on sofas watching TV, sitting in public transport or in car. Many of us spend as much as 8-10 hours a day on our butt! Sitting puts pressure equal two to three times your body weight on the lower back. When we sit, the hamstrings and hip flexors tighten up. Hip flexors tug at the lower spine and lower back muscles, causing the pelvis to arch forward and the lower back muscles to shorten. Sitting for a prolonged time also weakens abdominal muscles that support the spine. A combination of weakened abdominal muscles and repeated pressure on lower back muscles cause lower back pain.
To ease the suffering and perhaps to eliminate it completely, the muscles need to be strengthened and stretched regularly and the core should be flexible. This is why regular weight bearing and core exercise, followed by stretching is so important. Yoga and Pilates are excellent for healthy lower back and these classes are now widely available in gyms, local community clubs, etc. There are also plenty of online and video tutorials available, but going to class is a good excuse to walk more. The beauty of Yoga and Pilates is that it combines strength, stretches and core exercises.
Abdominal exercises are easy to do at home. The good news is just like with any other muscle group, you don’t have to exercise your abs every day. Three times a week is enough to strengthen them. Walking and swimming are very good, low impact cardiovascular exercises that help to strengthen lower back, abdominal and leg/arm muscles and also good for the heart.
Lower back and abdominal exercises.
- Hyperextension is excellent exercise and one of my favorites! It strengthens lower back, hamstrings and glutes together. I do it with 10 kilo medicine ball, but beginners should start without weight. It is also possible to do it on the fitness ball. That way you can do it at home. Fitness ball hyperextension will also provide core exercise.
- If you can only chose one abdominal exercise, this is the one you should do - air cycling. It is the most effective low impact abdominal exercise.
- Lower back curl. This is primarily an abdominal stretch exercise, but it will work similar to hyperextension, strengthening your lower back too.
Stretches that help with lower back pain.
- Knees to chest stretch.
- Pelvic raises. Beginners can do it half-way – it will still do the job.
- Superman. You can either do it with both legs and arms, like shown, or you can alternate it by raising left leg/right arm, then right leg/left arm.
- Lunge stretch is very good for hip flexors too.
- Hip flexor and quad stretch that you can do at home with a band.
- Hip flexor stretch that you can do quickly anywhere.
So get up and do some stretches now!