8 great moves for people with low back pain
Do you suffer from lower back pain? Have you had your ability to be active and get the most out of life impacted by your back pain? If you have answered yes to either of these questions you have probably been advised to become fairly immobile and give your back plenty of rest. While there are some instances where rest only is advisable, often participating in low impact movements that contribute to freeing up the muscles and joints around your low back is the best approach. I’m a believer in the fact that our bodies were designed to move and be active. I’ve gathered a list of 8 movements that have anecdotal evidence of providing relief for low back pain sufferers. These movements will help mitigate back pain and have you being more active and in less pain. Remember when undertaking in these movements it’s important to understand where your limit is, and gradually work on increasing your range.
1. Child Pose
How to: Begin by having your hands and the front of your lower legs on the ground. Then keeping your hands in the same place on the ground, try and get your glutes to your heels while your stomach rests on your thighs. Click link to watch a video that has this stretch in it.
What it does: Helps to lengthen your back, particularly your mid to upper back. By lengthening these muscles in the area above your pain site, you can reduce the load being absorbed by your lower back.
How to: Start off on all fours (tabletop position with hands and knees on the ground). Take a deep breath in and as you do this try and pull your spine to the sky (by rounding your mid back). Then exhale deeply, and as you do this arch your back. Repeat these two movements several times using a slow and controlled rhythm.
What it does: By moving your spine in these two directions, you create movement within the thoracic spine and the surrounding muscles. The movement of the spine and surrounding muscles helps to lengthen the muscles, and as stated in the child pose, lengthened muscles help to reduce the load absorbed by the lower back.
3. Pelvic Tilting
How to: Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Using your abdominal muscles, push your lower back flat into the ground. Then, relaxing your abdominals allow your lower back to slightly arch. Repeat these two movements several times using a slow and controlled rhythm.
What it does: In a similar way to what the cat/cow does for your mid back, pelvic tilting will do for your pelvis. Allowing this area to have greater movement and increased muscular length will also help to reduce the load absorbed by your lower back, and as such reducing the amount of pain you experience.
4. Knee to chest stretch
How to: Start on your back with your knees bent, and your back completely flat on the ground. When performing the single-leg variation, grab one leg and try and pull your knee to your chest while keeping the other leg grounded. When performing the double-leg variation, bring both knees to your chest. It’s important to remember when doing either variation to try and keep your hips on the ground. If you can, tuck your chin to your chest while performing this move.
What it does: This move helps to stretch and lengthen a large portion of your posterior chain (the group of muscles found on the back side of your body), in a single move. For some people it can also provide some supported decompression in their spine.
5. SI Joint Realignment
How to: Lay on your back with your feet in the air, but both knees bent to 90 degrees. Place one hand on the front of the corresponding knee, while the opposite hand is behind its corresponding knee. From here, the hand that is on the front of your knee will be pushing your knee away from you while the other hand is pulling your knee towards you. What you want to do is use resistance from your knees on both sides. Be sure to change hand position too.
What it does: The sacroiliac (SI) joint can become out of alignment with uneven muscular tightness. By performing this move, you can ‘reset’ your SI joint to a more neutral position which helps to relieve tension found in the lower back. (If your back pain is more to one side, then you might need to perform the realignment move more on one side than the other).
6. Piriformis stretch
How to: Lie flat on your back. Bring the knee of the side you’re stretching to your chest with one hand, while the other hand is pulling your ankle towards you also. Click link to watch a video that has this stretch in it.
What it does: It goes beyond stretching your hip capsule and stretches more of the smaller muscles within your glutes. By decreasing tension in your glutes, you will decrease the load and tightness found in your lower back.
7. Hamstring Stretch
How to: Use a bench or chair and place one leg on it, with knee slightly bent. Reach over towards your toes. As you do this, try and straighten your leg. Click link to watch a video that has this stretch in it.
What it does: By starting off with your knee bent before entering the stretch, it will help you get a more effective stretch in the belly of your hamstring, as opposed to stretching out behind your knee if you did it starting with a straight leg and reaching towards your toes. As with the piriformis stretch, decreasing tightness in your hamstrings can help alleviate the pain in your lower back.
8. Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch
How to: Start off in a split kneeling position with back foot resting on either a bench or chair that is relatively low. Squeeze your glutes and don’t arch your back to get a deeper stretch in your quads and hip flexors. Click link to watch a video that has this stretch in it.
What it does: Provides a more effective stretch for the front of your legs, giving decreased tension and strain through your hips. This decrease in tension and lengthening of muscles can help to reduce the load placed on your lower back by stopping this group of muscles from ‘pulling’ on your lower back.
The movements listed above can be done as standalone movements, or you can perform them as a sequence and allow it to form a part of your mobility and flexibility routine. They can also be included during your workout. To find out how you can include them into your workout, get in touch today. If you do suffer from low back pain, add these movements to your repertoire for at least a month, and you will notice decreased pain and greater movement through your lower back.