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The Best Lower Back Exercises and Stretches

Back Pain Exercises

When your lower back hurts, it is better to do more, not less. That might sound strange—you may not even want to get out of bed—but exercise can shorten your bouts of back pain. Even more, the correct stretching and strengthening program can stop back pain before it starts.

Nothing in your body exists in isolation, and nowhere is that more true than the lower back, or lumbar spine. A proper lower back stretching and strengthening program will spend a lot of time strengthening your core.

Your core is basically everything that’s not an arm or a leg. Most people only think of the abdominal muscles when they think about the core, but these muscles are really the entire trunk. The classic “six-pack” muscles—the rectus abdominis—are part of it, but so are many deep muscles under the rectus abdominis, the oblique muscles on the sides above the hip, and the muscles around the lumbar spine.

All of these muscles work together to stabilize the spine. Strengthening and stretching them together will go a long way to preventing lower back pain.

Lower Back Pain Exercises

Strong muscles are safe muscles. When your core and lower back are strong, you’re less likely to hurt your back. Here are some of the best exercises you can do for your lumbar spine and the rest of your core.

Planks

Planks can be considered the granddaddy of core exercises. If you can only do one move, make it the plank. This exercise is dead simple to learn, totally safe and can be done anywhere with no equipment necessary.

How it’s done

Get into the top of a pushup position. Keep your shoulders over your wrists and your body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Pull your belly button in. Hold in that position for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat three to five times.

Bridges

This is another excellent exercise that needs no equipment and can be done anywhere there’s enough floor space. It targets your lower back and glutes.

How it’s done

Lay on your back with the soles of your feet planted on the floor and your knees pointed at the ceiling. Raise your hips off the ground, hold for three seconds and slowly lower back to the floor. Repeat 10 times for three to five sets.

Supermans

Supermans are almost a reverse bridge, although they are more difficult. Your legs sticking straight out behind you become a “weight” that you lift with your lower back, while you mobilize your thoracic spine at the same time.

How it’s done

Lay on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you and your legs stretched out behind you. Keeping your legs straight, try to lift the front of your thighs off the floor (get as close as you can). At the same time, lift your chest off the floor and look forward. Hold and lower, repeat 10 times for three to five sets.

Lower Back Pain Stretches

Strengthening your back and your core is one part of the equation. Stretching the muscles in your back is the other. Flexible muscles are less prone to injury, plus stretching can feel really good for a sore back. Stretching your hamstrings is important as well, because tight hamstrings can pull on your lower back and cause changes to how you walk and move, which may cause back pain.

Twists

Sit on the floor cross-legged. Put your right hand on your left knee and turn to your left, using your hand to pull yourself as far as you can go. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Cat-Cow

Get on your hands and knees. Breathe out and push your upper back toward the ceiling. Breathe in and push your belly toward the floor. Repeat 10 times.

Forward fold

This can be done sitting or standing. From standing, hinge at your hips, bend over and try to touch your toes. Keep a slight bend in your knees. Keep your spine straight; don’t round your back. Hold for 20 seconds.

From sitting, bend forward from the hips and reach toward your toes. Keep your spine straight and do not round your back. Hold for 20 seconds.

When to Call a Doctor

Most bouts of back pain have an unknown cause and go away after about two weeks. If you have back pain for longer, or if you know for sure that you’ve injured yourself, request an appointment at Edison Spine Center.