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What Back Pain Exercises Can I Do at Home?

Back Pain & Injuries

For some of us, exercise is a dirty word. It just seems like too much work. But for those who experience back pain — and that’s about 80% of us — exercise can offer significant back pain relief. That is, if you choose the right exercises and do them correctly. Read on to learn which back pain exercises will help you — and your back — feel better.


Some exercises can really make a difference in making your back feel better as long as they are the right exercises and you do them correctly. You need to strengthen and stretch the right muscles in your back, abdomen, and legs because these are the ones that support your spine.

A word of caution: Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. And if a specific movement causes pain, stop.

With your doctor’s approval, put on some comfortable clothing, and let’s get started.

Which Back Pain Exercises Will Relieve My Pain?

Exercises that target the muscles in your back and abdomen generally do the most good. The right stretching moves will also help. If you give these exercises a try, you may be surprised at how much better your back feels. The best part is you don’t need to go to a gym or have any expensive equipment to do these exercises. Take your time and pay attention to your position and technique. Start with a few reps and build up gradually. Remember: If you feel pain, stop and call your doctor.

Here are some good ones to try:

Hamstring Stretch

  1. Lie on your back and bend one knee.
  2. Clasp your hands behind the bent knee and pull it toward you.
  3. Straighten this leg, point your toes, and pull your leg toward you.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat with the other knee.
  5. Try to do this exercise two to four times on each side.

Knee to Chest Stretch

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend your knees, but keep your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Keeping your left foot flat on the floor, bring your right knee up to your chest.
  4. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds while pressing your lower back into the floor.
  5. Switch sides and repeat with the left knee bent this time.
  6. Repeat two to four times on each side.

Lower Back Stretch

  1. Lie on your back.
  2. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Keeping your legs tight together, roll your bent legs to the right side.
  4. Hold them there for 10 seconds.
  5. Roll your legs back to center.
  6. Now roll to your left side with your bent knees held tightly together.
  7. Repeat, rolling to each side two to three times.

Hip Flexor Stretch

  1. While kneeling, place one foot in front of you with the sole of your foot flat on the floor.
  2. Keep your body up straight and then lean forward toward the foot that is extended in front of you.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Bridge Stretch

  1. Lie on your back and bend both knees.
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  3. While you push your heels into the floor, lift your hips up off the floor as high as they will comfortably go.
  4. Arch your back slightly. Don’t force it.
  5. Engage your core by tightening your abdominal muscles.
  6. Hold for about 5 seconds and then lower your hips to the floor.
  7. Start with 10 repetitions and work up to more as you are able.

Sitting Against the Wall

  1. Stand with your back to a wall with your feet about 12 inches away.
  2. Lean back until your back rests against the wall.
  3. Bend your knees and slide down until your knees are bent and you are in a sitting position.
  4. Press your lower back into the wall.
  5. Hold as long as you are comfortably able to do so and then slowly slide back up.
  6. Try to do this exercise five times.
  7. Do more as your back improves.

Press-Ups

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Tuck your hands slightly under your shoulders and keep your palms flat on the floor.
  3. Push your hands against the floor to lift your shoulders up.
  4. Push up as far as you can, but not so far that it hurts.
  5. If you can, put your elbows on the floor to support yourself.
  6. Hold yourself there for 5 to 10 seconds.v

Bird Dog

  1. Start out on all fours.
  2. Position yourself so that your hands are in line with your shoulders and your knees are below your hips.
  3. Keep your back flat. Don’t arch or let it sag. Don’t twist your hips.
  4. While you tighten your abdominal muscles, lift one leg and stretch it out behind you.
  5. Hold it there for at least 5 seconds.
  6. If you can, extend the opposite arm in front of you as well.
  7. Repeat on the other side.
  8. Do this exercise at least three times on each side.

Can I Stretch and Strengthen My Back With Yoga?

Yoga is a great way to get a good stretch, improve flexibility, and make your back feel better.1 Many yoga postures loosen tight muscles, build strength and range of motion, and result in a more relaxed mind and body—all benefits that can lead to a healthier, happier back. Here are a few good ones:

Child’s Pose

  1. Kneel on a mat and sit on your heels.
  2. As you lean forward, walk your arms out in front of you until your head rests on the floor.
  3. Hold this position for up to 2 minutes.

Cat / Cow

  1. Get on your hands and knees with your back flat.
  2. As you breathe out, let your head drop down as you pull the center of your back up toward the ceiling. (Tip: Think of how an angry cat would look.)
  3. Hold for a few seconds.
  4. Begin to exhale slowly, letting your back sag down in the middle.

Downward Facing Dog

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs out straight and your hands in line with your shoulders.
  2. As you push your hands into the floor, raise your hips up high.
  3. Have your hands and feet firmly planted on the floor. You should be making an upside down V-shape with your body.
  4. For an even greater stretch, slightly bend one knee while you push the heel of the other foot into the floor to stretch your calf muscles.
  5. Alternate with the other leg.

Which Exercises Could Make My Back Pain Worse?

If you’re having trouble with your back, not all exercises are good for you. Here are some to definitely avoid:

  • Toe touches — This movement can put too much strain on your lower back.
  • Sit ups — They put excessive pressure on the discs in your spine.
  • Leg lifts — They can actually make back pain worse.

If you are just starting out with back pain exercises, you can expect to be a little sore. But any discomfort should be mild and subside as your physical condition improves. Otherwise, it’s too strenuous. If any exercise causes moderate to severe pain, stop. And let your doctor know about it.

To learn more about what might be causing your back pain and what you can do about it, talk to the spine specialists at Inspired Spine.


REFERENCES

1. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/20/533505211/study-finds-yoga-can-help-back-pain-but-keep-it-gentle-with-these-poses

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