Unfortunately lower back pain is extremely common due to reasons such as poor core strength, lifting without proper form, tight hip flexors, weak glute muscles, etc. However, there are ways to strength the muscles that support the back and stretches that will relieve the pain.
- Where is your Core?
You can find your core about an inch below your belly button. To find your core, lay down on the floor on your back. Bend your knees and have your feet flat to the ground near your butt. There might be a slight arch in your back if you are still completely relaxed. From here, make the arch disappear by pressing your back down into the ground and keep it there for 30 seconds. Release tension and then repeat twice more.
2. Glute Bridge
A glute bridge will help start the engagement of the glute muscles and the core. Laying on your back with feet flat on the ground close to your butt with bent knees, engage first by squeezing the glutes upward. Press through the heels and NOT the toes. Only go as high as the glutes will squeeze and not into your back. 30 Repetitions, 3 times.
3. Cat & Cow Stretch
Cat and Cow stretch will allow your spine to lengthen. We never want to thing of shortening our spine. You begin on your knees and hands. Round the back into an extreme cat position by bringing the belly button upward, tucking the chin, and inhaling while finding this extreme position. As you exhale, bring the belly button down toward the ground, arching the back, and looking upward. Take it on your own timing and deep breaths for 30 seconds. Relax in between 3 sets of 30 seconds.
4. Cobra Stretch
Still thinking of lengthening the spine. Lay on your stomach with hands flat by the sides of your chest. Take an inhale and on the exhale, press the arms straight to lift the chest up, stretching the back. At the top, keep neck in line, shoulders down, and elbows slightly bent. Stay in this position for 30 seconds, inhale relaxing back down and repeat the exhale coming back up 2 more times.
5. Tight Hip Flexors?
Hip Flexors are directly related to the back. It is crazy how our bodies connect and work which is why it is so interesting. The hip flexor stretch I am about to explain, in my opinion, is best because it forces the correct muscle to stretch. People with flexible hips tend to sit into the stretch that feels the best because they are good at it. This one involves small range of motion. Kneel down on one knee and have the other foot on the ground at a 90 degree angle. Basically get down on one knee like you are about to propose. Place both hands on knee and have the chin down. Now, instead of just dropping the hip forward into a full lunge stretch, bring core up and imagine a straight line pulling the hip forward, but don’t be surprised if the hip does not travel as far forward. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat on each leg 3 times.
6. Foam Roller or Massage Gun?
Massage? Ya.. no, it doesn’t feel heavenly and good. You are meant to find the most tender spot and keep the pressure on for 30 seconds at a time 3 times. My suggestion to roll or use the gun on would be your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and IT band.
7. Ab Exercises to Strengthen the Core.
Reverse Crunches: Laying down on a bench, bend the knees and keep the heels glued to your butt the entire movement. Try not to use the hands too much, but have them by your head holding onto the lip of the bench. Tap the heels on the bench, and then bring the knees toward the elbows only using the abs. If hands begin to help or you are using too much momentum, decrease range of motion. 20 Reps, 3 times.
Laying Down Plank: Start laying down, arm straight and by the ears and legs in the air. Start timer for 45 seconds as you drop straight legs as far as you can lower them while lifting shoulders off the ground. You are in a hollow (boat or banana) position. If there is too much pressure on the back, bend the knees at a 90 degree angle. Too much pressure on the neck, bend elbows outward and have hands at ears, but still lifting chin and chest upward. 45 seconds, 3 times.
8. Resistance Band Squats
This is primarily for strengthening the muscles. Place the tube band about one inch above the knee. For a more full range of motion, place 2.5 or 5 pound plates hip width apart and barely place the heels on them. Toes are pointed slightly outward and as you hinge the hips back and below 90 degrees, press the knees outward toward the pinky toe. Keep the chest up and core tight. This is a great challenge for the core. Press through the heels and squeeze the glutes to come back to starting position.
9. Grab a Lacrosse Ball
Place the lacrosse ball on one side of the low of the back. Lay on the lacrosse ball in that spot. Do NOT let the ball be on the spine. Using the same leg as the side the lacrosse ball is on, bring the knee into the chest and then extend back out. Repeat this 15 times on one side before moving over to the other. Repeat this exercise 3 times.
Sometimes, back pain is a sign to just give it a rest. Do the low impact exercises and stretches, but do not push yourself to go to the gym or be lifting heavy objects. You only get one body and it is necessary to treat it well. My suggestion is to also get a trainer if you are unsure if your form at the gym is correct. A trainers job is to keep you safe while challenging you to new levels. If done correctly, your back pain will eventually become minimal with hard work.