Almost everyone will experience low back pain in their life. Some of us wake up with it randomly, and others feel it slowly over time. The first thing is to understand that there are two types of back pain, which are usually identified by doctors as “mechanical” or “organic.” Mechanical back pain is the most common, and can be associated with muscle spasms, ligament strains, fractures and arthritis. These types of injuries can occur acutely, or they can develop over long periods of time from lifting and carrying loads improperly.
So what do you do if you are a retail worker, nurse, or caregiver, and your job requires you to stay on your feet with little time off? Maybe you have people counting on you, and you can’t afford to take 4-6 weeks off for physical therapy. Whether you currently have low back pain or are trying to avoid it, take a breath, because we have some resources just for you.
One of the major contributors of low back pain is improper postural alignment. So when we stand or sit, and shift our weight to one side for long periods of time it can slowly cause inflammation and muscle imbalances. Our muscles can become extremely tight, which pulls our pelvis and spine out of alignment. Therefore, stretching can be a huge relief to the muscles and joints.
So how, when, and where should you stretch? Early in the morning and late at night are ideal times to stretch. You can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to complete some of the stretches below. They can be done in the comfort of your home, at a local park, or at the gym.
If you have a labor intensive job, stretching and performing these exercises consistently will keep your low back strong and healthy. The stronger you are, the longer you can stay in the game and keep serving and providing for the people that need you most.
Stretches to Help with Low Back Pain
Important stretches to focus on to help low back pain are: Child Pose, Hangs, Pigeon Stretch, and the Figure 4 Stretch. Ease in and out of a difficult stretch for 15-30s and then move on to the next muscle group.
Push your hips back and hold the stretch for 15-30 second, and make sure you breathe deeply throughout the stretch
You should feel this stretch in the back hip
This is great stretch for Sciatic Nerve relief
Figure 4 Stretch
If you can’t hold your leg up, then you can use a wall to prop your foot up
Make sure you push on the outside knee to open up the hip because it allows for a deeper stretch
Decompress the spine and hang on getting a good pull for 10-20 seconds
Exercises to Relieve Current Back Pain
Some Pivotal exercises to focus on in the gym if you currently have low back pain are: Elevated Planks, Elevated Side Planks, Bird Dogs, and the Slow Crunch.
This is a great beginner exercise to reinforce the core because it helps the lower back recover and gain strength
Elevated Side Planks
This is a more difficult movement than the elevated plank because it challenges lateral stabilization and engages the oblique muscles in your core
Make sure you do this exercise slowly and under control
You should start on your hands and knees, raise your left hand and then right leg as shown above
Now hold the position for 15-30 seconds
Come back to the starting position, and then raise your right hand and left leg
Feel your weight shift and your core activate as you lift each limb and reach out
Start by laying on your back with knees bent as shown above
Then place your hands wherever is comfortable, and begin to slowly curl up and activate your abdominals
Hold the crunch (in the position shown above) for 5-10 seconds and then slowly relax
Exercises to Prevent Low Back Pain
Exercises to perform to prevent low back pain include: Suitcase Carries, Plank Rotations, Side Lying Leg Raise, and Reverse Hypers.
The dumbell places load on one side of the body which forces the body to mobilize and maintain activation at all times
You can do this exercise with any weight you have because it simply helps provide a counterbalance to stretch your back while you walk.
Start in a plank position on your elbows with arms about shoulder width apart.
Then rotate so that you are balancing on one arm with both feet remaining planted on the ground as shown above.
Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and then return to plank position
Rotate onto the other side, and then repeat
This exercise forces the spine to rotate while balancing which helps improve overall movement
This will help strengthen the low back and prepare it for the demands we place on it everyday
Lying Side Leg Raise
Start by laying down on your side
Then raise your leg with your arm outstretched as shown above
Hold for 5-10 seconds
Then bring your leg back down and roll over to your other side
You should repeat on the other side
This exercise is crucial to strengthen the Glute Medius. This muscle is important because it aids in balance and stabilization.
It is important to keep the glute muscles strong so that the body does not compensate with the weaker lower back muscles
Start by laying on your stomach on a bench (if you are at a gym) or a chair (if you are doing this at home)
Make sure you have something stable like chair legs to grab on to for support
Then slowly lift your legs into the air and hold for 5-10 seconds
Do not lift your legs higher than is shown in the image above
This exercise may look strange, but it is one of the best exercises to prevent and combat low back pain
This exercise provides traction and activation of the low back and is extremely important