One way to loosen up those stiff and painful lower back muscles is by exercising. Here are the best physical therapy stretches to try.
Does your lower back hurt? You’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80 percent of adults will suffer a bout of lower back pain sometime during their lives. This pain can be debilitating, and is even a leading cause of missed workdays and disability.
Many people think that resting their sore back will help eliminate the discomfort. But in fact, exercise is often the best medicine — provided you do the right exercises. Strengthening and stretching your lower back actually increases blood flow to the area, which loosens up tense, painful muscles.
Persistent and severe back pain should be checked by a doctor to determine the cause, and it’s important to consult with a physical therapist before embarking on a workout program. However, these simple exercises are a great way to start healing your aching lower back. Even if you aren’t experiencing severe pain, maintaining a strong, flexible core will help you stay in top shape during your workouts.
The 7 Best Lower Back Exercises
These seven exercises are intended to improve flexibility and strength in the hip, gluteus maximus (buttock), abdominal, and lower back muscles. As you stretch, be sure to keep your movements slow and gentle, and stop if you feel significant pain.
1. Knee-to-Chest Stretch
Lie with your back on the floor, with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. With both hands, pull one knee toward the chest, holding it there for five seconds. Tighten the abdominal muscles and press your spine against the floor. Do this exercise with each leg three times a day.
2. Lower Back Rotational Stretch
Similar to the knee-to-chest stretch, lie with your back on the floor, knees bent, and feet anchored to the floor. Gently roll your knees to one side while keeping your shoulders on the floor. Hold that position for about 10 seconds before returning to the starting position, and then repeating the exercise on the opposite side. Repeat on each side two to three times daily.
3. Pelvic Tilt
With your back and upper body on the floor, bend your knees with feet flat on the ground and your arms at your sides. Slowly arch your lower back and push your stomach out. Hold for five seconds and then relax. For the second part of the exercise, pull your stomach toward the floor as you straighten your back. Again, hold for five seconds. Work up to 30 repetitions a day.
4. Cat Stretch
On your hands and knees, gently arch your back upward to the ceiling by pulling your belly button into your spine. Then gradually lower your back and abdomen toward the floor. Do a complete rotation of both positions three to five times twice a day.
Lie with your back on the floor and knees bent. Tighten your abdominal and gluteal muscles while keeping your shoulders and head relaxed. Lift your hips so they form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold for six seconds, then slowly return your hips to the floor. Do eight to 12 bridges.
6. Seated Rotational Stretch
While seated on an armless chair or stool, cross your right leg over your left. You can put your hands behind your head, or place your left hand on the right knee during the exercise. Twist your core to the right as you square your hips, keeping your spine straight. Hold for 10 seconds, and switch to the left side. Do three to five repetitions twice daily.
7. Partial Curls
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can put your hands behind your head or place them across your chest. Raise your head and shoulders roughly two inches off the ground, keeping your head in line with your spine. Hold for five seconds and return to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 repetitions.
The Lower Back Specialists
If your lower back pain persists, it’s time to visit one of our back and spine specialists at New York Bone & Joint. We’ll get to the root of your pain with careful diagnosis and treatment that focuses on exercise and physical therapy. Contact us today to set up an appointment.