Back pain, especially lower back pain, is the most prevalent discomfort experienced by adults globally. For instance, American health statistics show that 65 million US adults recently experienced a back pain episode, and 80% of the said demographic will experience lower back pain at some point.
Although lower back pain can adversely affect your ability to perform daily tasks, simple pain relief tactics exist. One expert report recommends body movement or exercise as the most effective, non-intrusive, and natural way to tackle lower back pain. Below are the top recommended exercises to help you alleviate lower back pain and achieve bonus musculoskeletal health benefits.
What Causes Lower Back Pain And How Does Exercise Help?
Lower back pain has multiple causes, including poor body mechanics like poor posture and incorrect lifting techniques. It may also result from muscle strain from excessive use, aging, injury, or musculoskeletal illnesses like arthritis and osteoarthritis. The pain may manifest as muscle tension and spasms; the intensity varies from acute to chronic.
However, body movement or exercises loosen the muscles, easing muscle tension and spasm. Second, one literature review shows that exercising releases endorphins or natural painkillers that lower pain intensity.
Nonetheless, you can visit a polyclinic if the lower back pain persists despite exercising. Polyclinics have musculoskeletal experts like physiotherapists and spinal doctors who can recommend further tests to diagnose your back pain’s underlying cause. Second, they also curate custom exercise plans to address your lower back pain’s intensity and frequency.
However, you can begin by performing the following recommended exercises.
Walking is the most underrated yet effective physical activity for promoting health and well-being, including pain relief. Second, it requires zero specialized knowledge and has the lowest chance of aggravating your lower back pain.
Experts recommend walking 10-30 minutes one to three times daily to alleviate lower back pain. However, you can start with 5-10 minutes of walking if the lower back pain inhibits your mobility.
Nonetheless, applying correct walking posture (neutral spine alignment, not leaning backward or forward, eyes and head ahead, and engaging core muscles) has the following benefits for the lower back. First, engaging your core muscle removes strain from your lower back muscles, allowing the latter to relax.
Second, walking increases blood flow to lower back muscle blood vessels. Enhanced blood flow also means more nutrients, accelerating healing. Third, walking can help you lose excess weight or maintain optimum body weight, taking the strain off your spine and back muscles. Although a treadmill walk suffices, interacting with nature while walking outdoors improves your mental health.
One randomized study on the effectiveness of stretching on lower back pain yielded positive results. 81% of participants in the study reported a moderate to high level of lower back pain relief after six months of stretching exercises.
A daily exercise stretch routine for alleviating back pain entails holding a stretch position for 15-30 seconds and repeating each stretch position two to three times. The stretch routine takes approximately ten minutes, and you should repeat them at least three times daily for significant lower back pain relief.
While many static stretch exercises are available, one expert review recommends the following stretches are ideal for soothing the lower back.
- Knee-to-chest stretch
- Lower back rotational stretch
- Lower back flexibility exercise
- Bridge exercise
- Cat stretch
- Seated lower back rotational stretch
- Shoulder blade squeeze
Yoga’s pain-relieving effect on lower back muscles entails improving flexibility and posture and strengthening the lower back muscles. Although yoga and static stretches have multiple similarities, yoga is a complete workout, often includes rapid fluid movements from one pose to another, and focuses on breathing techniques.
Also, different yoga techniques accommodate different fitness and mobility levels. However, the following yoga poses are ideal for soothing lower back pain.
- Child’s pose
- Downward-facing dog
- Sphinx pose
- Supine spinal twist
- Standing forward, bend.
- Tai Chi
Tai Chi originates in martial arts but is emerging as an effective routine for lower back pain relief. It encompasses slow, fluid movements, controlled breathing, and mindfulness to correct spinal malalignment, improve flexibility, and strengthen the muscles. A 20-30 minute Tai Chi session should suffice for beginners, but a daily hour session is best for lower back pain relief.
Pilates is a set of repetitive exercises that strengthen the muscles, ease muscle tension and improve posture. Although there is an overlap between pilates and yoga, the primary difference between the two exercises is that pilates focuses on building core strength while yoga focuses on flexibility.
Pilates exercises for lower back pain include
- Hamstring stretch
- Supine spinal twist
- Chest lift
- Pelvic curl
- Strength Training
Strength training exercises challenge your muscles and have long-term benefits for the musculoskeletal system. Many strength training routines exist, but experts recommend the following upper body routines for lower back pain relief.
- Bird dog
- Goblet stationary lunge
- Romanian deadlift
- Three-point dumbbell row
- Dead bug
Although exercise is not a cure for lower back pain, the abovementioned exercises go a long way in alleviating the pain and improving mobility and flexibility. Besides pain relief, exercise has bonus benefits, including improved mental health. However, consult a doctor or a physiotherapist before adopting any pain-relieving exercises or if the pain intensifies with exercise to avoid damaging your muscles.