There are few things worse than having to live with back pain. Even normal activities such as sleeping, cooking, walking and long trips can be painful and frustrating. Luckily, there are back pain exercises which can help reduce or even eliminate back pain and help you live a more normal life again. As always, please consult your doctor before attempting any back pain exercises or suggestions described on this page. The back pain exercises below will help strengthen your core. A large portion of back pain and back injuries are caused by having a weak core, wikipedia defines the core as your “body minus your legs and arms”. There are plenty of muscle groups that belong in the core, some of them are the abdominals, obliques, latissimus dorsi (referred to as “lats”), glutes and trapezius. By strengthening these muscles you lower the probability of injuries, especially back injuries. These back pain exercises can also help with injuries caused by car accidents or sports and will help you age gracefully. Here are some back pain exercises which will strengthen your core.
- Crunches: I like the crunch better than the sit-up because it’s less strain on the lower back. Get in the usual sit-up position, place your hands behind your head and curl your upper body toward your legs. Don’t pull your head forward when crunching, that’s cheating. Make sure your abdominals do the work. Do 5 sets of 15 repetitions.
- Cobra Stretch: My favorite stretch (especially after crunches)! Lie face down and place your palms near your chest as if you were going to do a pushup. Now raise your head and chest and extend as far as you can. Use your arms for support. Once you reach your peak you should resemble a cobra. Remember to keep your hips and legs touching the floor. Hold this stretch for 5-10 seconds.
- Leg Lifts: Lay flat on the floor facing up. Put your hands under your glutes and raise your legs about 2 to 3 feet off the ground and lower them to about 6 inches off the ground. Do 3 sets of 10. Remember to keep your legs extended and close together the entire time.
- Supermans: One of my favorite workouts! Lay flat, face down with your arms and legs fully extended (imagine Superman flying). While in the same position, raise your arms and legs as high as you comfortably can. Do 3 sets of 10.
- Pull-ups: The ultimate back workout. Very difficult for beginners, you might need some help if you’re just starting. Grabbing a pull-up bar shoulder width apart (palms in or out, palms in is usually easier), lift yourself up until your chin is above the bar and until your collar bone is parallel to the bar. Pause for a moment and return back to your original position (careful with lowering to fast and hitting your chin on the bar).
- Bent-over rows: There are multiple ways to do this, either with a barbell or dumbbells or even your own bodyweight. The basic movement is to keep your knees bent slightly and while keeping your back straight, lower yourself to pick up the weight and rise again. Still keeping your back straight angle yourself forward a little to where you can comfortably hold the weight (your arms should be perpendicular to the floor). Raise the weight to the bottom of your chest (should be a straight up movement), pause for a moment, and lower the weight to the original position. If performing this exercise at home, find a stable surface where you can hang on from and pull yourself up. Imagine a push up if you were facing the ceiling while holding on to a firm table, fence or other safe object. Do 3 sets of 10 reps and light weight.
- Deadlifts: Similar to the above bent-over row. There are also multiple ways to do this exercise. The most common is while the weight is on the floor (barbell or dumbbells), squat down and get a good shoulder-width apart grip. Straighten your back and push through your heels straightening your legs. Once your legs are straight continue the lift by extending your back as far as possible (slightly further back from a standing position). Pause for a moment and return back to the original position in a controlled manner. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
The above back pain exercises are a good start to getting your core in shape and improving your lifestyle. Remember to implement a lot of stretching, yoga is excellent for this. Start off easy and move up in weight only when you feel comfortable. If you have any existing injuries, have had surgery or have any other medical conditions, do not attempt any of these back pain exercises without first consulting your physician.