Fitness Articles

Exercising with Lower Back Pain

Increase Strength & Flexibility to Decrease Pain

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It’s a common problem for many who exercise. It makes everyday activity difficult, and scares a lot of people away from any physical activity. It’s lower back pain. For those of you who suffer from it, there is hope.  While there are a multitude of things that can cause back pain, from genetic malformations to injury, a number of recent studies show that a lack of core strength contributes to pain and stiffness in the lower back.


So what's the best way to deal with lower back pain that your health care provider has attributed to a lack of core strength? Exercise.  This might cause a little more pain in the beginning, but under the care of your health provider, it can reduce your pain in the long run.  And for many people, the long-term solution for back pain lies in abdominal, hip and lower back strengthening and stretching exercises.

Some pain or aches in your lower back might be the result of weak abdominal muscles. When you have a weak abs, you are more likely to have poor posture and your lower back muscles are forced to take over, which can strain them in a way that becomes uncomfortable or painful over time. You can minimize back pain by doing exercises that make the muscles in your abs stronger, while also training to increase the strength and flexibility level in your lower back, hips and thighs.

Everyone's back pain is different, so it's a good idea to check with your health care provider about what's best for you. If core strength is your problem, the following exercises can help.

Leg Raises to strengthen stomach and hip muscles
How to: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Lift one leg off the floor to about a 45° angle. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 5 times with each leg. If that is too difficult, keep one knee bent and the foot flat on the ground while raising the opposite leg.

Leg Raises to strengthen back and hip muscles
How to: Lie on your stomach. Tighten the muscles in one leg and raise it from the floor. Raise it as high as you can (approximately 30°) without causing any discomfort to your lower back or lifting your hip off the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 5 times with each leg.

Wall Slides to strengthen your back, hip and leg muscles
How to: Stand with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart. Slide down into a crouch until the knees bend to about 90°. Count to 5 and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.

Partial Sit-Up to strengthen stomach muscles
How to: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor and reach with both hands toward your knees. Count to 10. Repeat 5 times.

Back Leg Swing to strengthen hip and back muscles
How to: Stand behind a chair with your hands on the back of the chair. Lift one leg back and up while keeping the knee straight. Return slowly. Raise the other leg and return. Repeat 5 times with each leg.

Exercises to increase flexibility and stretch out the back
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on your bed or floor. Raise your knees toward your chest. Place both hands under your knees and gently pull your knees as close to your chest as possible. Do not raise your head. Do not straighten your legs as you lower them. Start with 5 repetitions, several times a day.

Remember to never exercise to the point of sharp pain or discomfort, and gradually progress to more repetitions or sets of an exercise. Although it can be uncomfortable or slightly painful to strengthen the areas of your body that are causing your back pain, the benefit will be there in the long run. Say so long to the pain in your back!


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Member Comments

  • Strengthening your core is great, but these exercises will only help back pain if your issue is muscular & not an actual spinal problem. If after 6 months you are still in pain, then there is another issue.
  • AZURE-SKY
    Some of us with lower back pain also have problems getting down on the floor and back up again. Instead, I found that standing core exercises help me to strengthen my abs and my back muscles.
  • CHRISHARP
    I have tried these exercises and they help.
  • I have been suffering from lower back pain for a long time. I could only run upto 3k and took me 2 or 3 days to recover before my next run. My sciatica bothered me a lot. I went to a chiropractor and his treatments helped me tremendously. After 3 month's treatment all my pain was gone. Now I run 5 days a week and doing 4 k per day. No pills required...
  • I find the legs up a wall a good exercise to do for stretching away the low back ache.
  • EX-SKINNY60
    Woke up this morning practically immobile with Sciatica from keeping my grandbaby on Saturday. Even taking anti-inflammatory pills and it matters little. All this from being unable to exercise after gallbladder surgery. *SIGH*
  • This is a really great article! I made a copy to use.
  • IAJJJOHANSON
    Thanks for your leg lift exercise suggestions. When I do it I normally lift both legs and try to keep them from touching the floor until I have completed a set of 15. I will try adding just lifting one at a time and holding it to my work out. It will probably be harder that what I am currently doing. http://www.advanc
    edchiroclinic
    .com.au
  • SPUNOUTMOM
    I have just recovered from back pain. My Doctor gave me some of these exercises. She also added bird dog which really helped increase range of motion & strength. But they need to be done in order to be able to do them.
  • I agree with your statement "check with your Dr first". I am not allowed any form of sit up.
    Leg lifts,yes and other that would not stress the back. I also agree with try to keep moving (circulation). thanks for the input.
  • BELINDAFA
    I have degenerative spine pain and fibromygia had both of these sice 1998 it hasn't got any better just gets worse my doctor told me if I didn't use it I will lose it he was telling I had to stop sitting and laying around cause I was in pain so I did I joined the Y and I also went thru therapy for 6 weeks then had to go some where else to take pool therapy it started helping at that point I now can walk thru the grocery store and don't have to leave before I get what I went after I also had 4 back and 2 neck surgerys I also had a back stimulater put in my back I have only been at the Y for a few days now but looking forward to getting better I know I will never get back the way I was but if I can go walking and get out and enjoy life I am going to do what I have to so I can enjoy life with my friends and family
  • GINAE53
    I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in the cervical disc area in the fall of 2013 but have been able to do aerobics and yoga with no problems. This past year severe pain struck me in the lower spine and MRI showed a bulging disc in the thoracic area. I took physical therapy to teach me good exercising and strengthening methods and has really helped. I do Hatha yoga now with Pilates and has done wonders for me. I just underwent the epidural steroid injection in my tail bone due to nerve endings being irritated. I had wanted to do Zumba but now know this isn't safe. I will continue my yoga and Pilates as these are safe and gives a wonderful workout.
  • WILLWORKNOW
    I too cannot get on the floor and never will be able to do so. I will start doing some of the other exercises mentioned though. I wonder if doing the floor exercises would be OK to do while in bed?

About The Author

Holly Little Holly Little
A former Division I basketball player, Holly is a certified in Spinning and personal training.

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