Core Strengthening and Stretching Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief
Identifying and Dealing with Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is very common among adults. It can affect all kinds of people—those who need to lift heavy objects at work, those who live a sedentary lifestyle or work in a sedentary environment, and even those who are physically active in sports. There are numerous activities both physical and non-physical that may be causes.
In this article we will cover exercises as well as causes and treatments for pain. Regardless of our level of physical activity, most of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. It is important to understand the causes, possible preventive methods, and available treatments.
Stretching Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief
Stretching is not only very important for recovery purposes, but also in maintaining flexibility and helping to prevent pain from occurring or re-occurring. Stretching should not cause pain, but rather reduce or relieve it. If you believe your discomfort is from an intervertebral disc injury or other acute injury, consult with a medical professional before attempting any lower back exercises or stretching. Otherwise, performing these stretches should help keep you pain free, or at least help alleviate most of it. Please note that the following stretching exercises can be seen demonstrated in the video below.
- Deep Glute Stretch (hold 30 seconds each side)
- Prone Torso Twist (hold 30 seconds each side)
- Shell Stretch (hold 30 seconds)
- Cobra Stretch (hold 30 seconds)
- Seated Torso Twist (hold 30 seconds each side)
- Seated Crossover Hamstring Stretch (hold 30 seconds each side)
- Standing Toe Touch (hold 30 seconds)
- Cat Stretch (hold 30 seconds)
Stability Ball and Stretching ExercisesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Video Showing Stretching Exercises
A demonstration of each exercise can be seen in the following video. A huge thanks to Kelli from FitnessBlend for showing us how to perform these lower back stretches in motion.
Glute Stretches for Pain Relief
For the athletic types, such as runners, weight lifters, or any other sports activity, lower back pain may also be caused by tight glutes. In this case, glute stretching exercises may help relieve or prevent discomfort. Glute stretching can be done either before or after your event, or even both. You only need to perform two or three of the following stretching exercises. Perform these exercise 2 times each (2 sets), and be sure to hold each stretch for 30 seconds each before repeating with the opposite leg.
1. Pretzel Glute Stretches (hold 30 seconds each side): Sit on the floor using an exercise yoga mat, leave one leg straight and flat on the mat, and bring your opposing leg up so your foot rests flat on the ground. While supporting your weight behind you with one arm, take the opposite arm of the leg that is raised, grip your knee and pull inward until you feel a good stretch in the glute muscle and hold. Repeat for the opposite leg.
2. Lying Glute Stretches (hold 30 seconds each side): Lie flat on your back side on the floor using an exercise yoga mat and raise both legs up with knees bent at a 90 degree angle. Cross one leg over and position your angle directly behind your knee. Using both hands, grip your other leg under the knee or hamstring area and slightly pull back until you feel a good stretch in the glute muscle. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.
3. Pigeon Glute Stretches (hold 30 seconds each side): Getting into position for this stretching exercise may be somewhat difficult for most, so doing a wide lunge and lowering yourself into a deep stretch position and holding will also suffice. Otherwise, position yourself with one leg slightly crossed in front of you and the other flat behind you on the floor while keeping upright. Now slowly move your upper body from the upright position forward until you feel a good stretch in your glute muscle. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat for the other side.
4. Seated Glute Stretches (hold 30 seconds each side): While sitting on a chair or bench with feet flat on the ground in front of you, raise one leg and position the ankle slightly above the knee and resting on the quad muscle closest to the knee area. With both hands push slightly on the opposite knee while bending forward until you feel a good stretch in the glute muscle. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
5. Standing Glute Stretches (hold 30 seconds each side): Standing beside an elevated platform, raise one leg and rest that food onto the platform. Leaning into that leg will create a stretch in the glute area. Hold that position for 30 seconds and repeat for the other leg.
What Are the Causes?
There are many causes for lower back pain, some of which are, but not limited to, bad posture, accidents, physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, lifting heavy objects, hereditary, and age just to name a few. Let’s briefly cover these below before moving on to treatments and preventions such as core stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Posture: Always stand straight and balanced on both feet. Leaning to one side will cause unwanted stress. Standing upright and not leaning forward will also help.
- Accident: Injuries directly to the lower back or even to the hip, knees, legs, or feet can contribute to pain. A broken leg, for example, may cause extra bone growth around the fractured area and result in that leg being somewhat longer than the other. This could cause a hip imbalance and thus result in discomfort over time.
- Sports or Physical Activity: Any repetitive movements, high impact, and jarring activities can cause wear to your knee and ankle joints, and injures and complications such as spinal compression, herniated discs, or degenerating discs.
- Sedentary Lifestyle:Sitting for long durations at work, home, or driving long hours may cause stiffness and soreness. In this type of setting, interval stretching or short walks would be helpful.
- Heavy Lifting: Lifting heavy objects with improper form may cause lower back pain or even injury. It is important when lifting heavy objects to always concentrate on lifting with your legs and not with your back.
- Hereditary: Lower back pain may be inherited. Lower spine diseases associated with herniated or degenerating discs is one of the most common causes of persistent pain.
- Medical Problems: There are various medical problems such as diseases, infections, and tumors. They include scoliosis, arthritis, and osteomyelitis to name a few. Other conditions such as fibromyalgia, endometriosis, kidney stones, leg length discrepancy, pelvic imbalance, flat feet, and pregnancy can cause pain as well.
- Age: Many years of hard work and wear and tear can put a lot of stress on the joints and various body parts such as feet, legs, and spine. Any weakness in the feet or knees for example can cause pain in the lower back over time.
How does age relate to lower back pain?
Please take this poll if you have lower back pain issues. What is your age?
Not all of these causes can be treated or remedied with stretches or exercises. However, in many cases, they are effective and should be part of a scheduled routine to prevent or relieve pain. It is highly recommended that you diagnose what is causing your lower back pain. If you have suffered any injuries in the past or you are currently suffering from an injury, consulting with a medical professional before doing any stretching or exercises would be strongly recommended. Never make a self-diagnosis, and when in doubt always consult with a professional.
How to Prevent Lower Back Pain
Before getting into our stretching and core strengthening exercises, we should address a few basics for prevention. For most of us, simple preventive measures will help to reduce or remedy our problems. Here is a list of preventive measures you can follow to reduce your chances of lower back pain.
- Buy the right size shoes with the correct arch support for your feet, and replace them every year or whenever warn out.
- Proper posture and form are important. Keep your body aligned and do not lean forward. Keep weight distribution even on both feet. Leaning on one side can cause discomfort. Also concentrate on sitting straight, and stand up and stretch when seated for longer periods of time.
- If you are a runner avoid running on your heels as this will create a jarring effect on your spine.
- Incorporate core strengthening exercises for relief, which include abdominal and lower back muscles, with resistance training such as sit ups, leg lifts, roman chair, thoracic extensions, and bridge exercises just to name a few. I especially love the stability ball routines. A good alternative to the roman chair found at your local gym would be the stability ball back crunches. This exercise is great for isolating your lower back muscles. Below are a few more exercises you can use at home to strengthen and stretch those core muscles.
Lower back pain can happen instantly or slowly over time. Unless it is not relieved by simple remedies, or it is severe, immediate medical attention may be needed. On the other hand, if the condition is not severe, it may be relieved in about two to three weeks, or less in some cases, with exercises.
If pain persists for a longer time period, medical treatment may be necessary. When in doubt always consult your physician or medical professional. For non-acute injuries or less extreme pain, try the following treatments for relief.
- Discontinue physical activities or exercising and use an ice pack in the immediate location of your discomfort. Generally do not use ice packs longer than 15 minutes and avoid direct contact with the skin. Heat can be used a couple of days after inflammation has been reduced.
- Take an anti-inflammatory that you are not allergic to for a couple of days.
- After three days, try some light stretching exercises for your lower back and zero impact cardio exercises to increase blood flow and help expedite healing.
I hope this article was helpful to those suffering lower back pain and that you become relieved very soon. Thanks for your time and feel free to leave a comment.
All information provided in this article is of a general nature and is furnished for educational purposes only. No information contained herein is meant to be taken as medical advice or other health advice pertaining to any individual specific health or medical condition. You agree that use of this information is at your own risk and hold harmless the writer of this article from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.
© 2014 John Mark