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Combating Lower Back Pain

When we get lower back pain, the inclination is to rest until you’re 100% healthy. But there are certain exercises you can do to help strengthen your lower back and ease the pain in some cases that you should be performing, unless your doctor tells you otherwise. By not doing anything at all for your lower back, the muscles will remain weak and you will be susceptible to more injury. The stretches and exercises in this blog should be done slowly and pain free. Hold the stretches for 30 seconds and do not bounce on the movements. 

 A necessary evil!

A necessary evil!


Foam Roller
I can’t tell you what is causing the lower back pain but i can tell you that just because you feel pain in the lower back, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the root of the problem. Tight muscles in your legs can affect the mobility in your hips, thus causing excess stress on your lower back. One way to counter this is to loosen up the legs by foam rolling the legs. When your foam rolling, if you come across any “tight’ spots i.e where your muscle feels like a little rock, press in with the foam roller to help alleviate it. 

Stretches
A few great exercises include:
1. Back Flexion Stretch. Lying on your back, legs bent at a 90 degree angle with feet on the ground. Grab behind the knees and pull your knees into your body.

Progression 1a: Knee to Chest Stretch. Same as above except pull one leg into your body and keep the other foot on the ground.

Progression 1b: A Supine Piriformis Stretch. Same as above, except cross your legs at the knee (like you would sitting on a chair) and pull the bottom leg into your body.

Do Stretches for your quadriceps (front of your legs) and hamstrings (back of your legs) as well.

2. Quad stretch: Stand on one leg, bend your other knee back and pull your foot towards your body while pushing your hips forward. 

3. Hamstrings Stretch: Step forward and then lean back on the back leg as if you are sitting back into a chair, bending that back knee and keeping the front leg straight.

I have suffered with lower back pain in the past and I personally believe a lot of it was to do with my hamstrings and not treating those strains effectively when I was younger, playing soccer (yep, I called it soccer!). If you feel like your hamstrings are particularly tight, do a few extra stretches for them as well. Lying flat, keep one leg up straight and pull into your body. You can use a towel to get a greater stretch or get a friend to gently push your leg in. 

Exercises:
1. Cat and Camel Exercises: On your hands and knees in a “table” position, hunch your spine slowly up as if you are doing it vertebrae by vertebrae until you’re hunched up and then sink your back down slowly until your back is bent down. 

Progression 1: Bird Dog. Keep the back flat and raise the back leg until the back leg is straight and the heel is in line with your hips. Keep your body straight and still.

Lying Prone: Lie face down arm by sides. Raise your body up, keeping hips pressed down.

Progression 1a: Lying Prone on Elbows: Progress from this to lying on your elbows with hips pressed into the ground

Progression 1b:  Lying Prone on Hands. Extend the arm until you are into a full press up with the hips down. 

Pelvic Tilts: Lying Flat, with knees bent and 90 degrees. Tighten your stomach for 10 seconds before relaxing. You should feel your back pushing into the ground.

Bridging: From Pelvic Tilts position. Raising your hips up off the ground, contract your core muscles. Hold for 5 seconds and slowly lower your hips.
 


Plank: If there is no pain in bridging, I would progress on to plank exercises. Holding an elbow Plank for 20-30 seconds max. Make sure your body is totally straight and your are not bending your back at all. 

From here, ease yourself back into full body workouts. Bodyweight squats and lunges at a slow pace are ideal. Progress by adding dumbbells.

Cardio:
I would encourage walking and an exercise bike if you feel no pain with the above exercises. You might aggravate something with excess running on a treadmill or rower so ease yourself back with these two.

Progression: Water based exercises and cross trainer. Exercises in the water are kind to your lower back and limit stress while the cross trainer is mimicking running without the bouncing effect of it. Increase the difficulty of the exercises in the water over time. 

Avoid any exercises that puts strain on your lower back including:
Touching the toes
Sit Ups
Leg Raises

Once again, it is recommended that you slowly use the progressions over time but never exercise if your doctor tells you not to!