As some of you know, a couple years ago, I suffered a really bad lower back injury. I mainly got it from working at a job where I stood up for eight to ten hours a day. In addition, I did not have proper fitting shoes, which is especially crucial since my right leg is about 1/2 inch longer than my left. I will cover in more detail about how my glutes and legs were weak, also adding to the impact of my lower back pain in a future article. I also had terrible posture, which I was warned about as a child. I continued to lift weights like a madman! Then, it all hit the fan! I was stuck in bed. I couldn’t walk. I’ll admit that I was depressed. Financially I took a hit too, because I was very restricted to what I could do.
A lot of doctors will prescribe muscle relaxers and ibuprofen instead of getting to the root of your problem. Many times, the issues are muscular imbalances that all the pills in the world won’t solve. Now, there are more serious injuries which I will tell you to see a qualified back specialist to get the proper rehabilitation routine. If you are cleared to stretch and do light exercises, then here are some great tips on how to improve your lower back pain.
1.) Hip Flexor Stretch – Low back pain from sitting will also often result in tight hip flexors. Make sure you stretch them before and after you exercise. In fact, you should stretch them as often as you can. Don’t worry about looking like the odd-ball in the workplace. I know have looked like one before, but you can bet people were asking me questions about how it made me feel afterwards. Watch when you do this stretch to not over extend your lower back.
2.) Cat Stretch – This is a common exercise in pilates class. First, you want to let your abdomen sink to the ground, then arch your back slowly. Do this exercise at least three times a day for 15 reps.
3.) Floor Bridge – I have my clients do this as a lower back strengthening exercise, which it is, especially when you add weight in the form of dumbbells or barbells. However, it is a low impact exercise, and it is great to help get mobility in your back and hips. Think of it as thrusting the air in a controlled motion. Aim for three sets of 15 reps with just your bodyweight at least 3 times a day. You may feel a slight crack in your thoracic (middle) spine for your first rep. That is perfectly normal. You are increasing your back’s mobility.
4.) Foam Roller – Also known as a self-myofascial release, the foam roll is one of the best investments you will ever make for your back health. Roll the foam roller just above your lumbar (Lower back) and roll up to your shoulders. Roll back down and repeat seven times. You will feel several cracks, and your muscles will feel less tense. Repeat the foam roll on your hip flexors. Go on your side and roll from the IT Band down to right above your knee. Repeat on your other leg. It is best to use the foam roller after you wake up in the morning, before you go to sleep, and quickly before your workout.
5.) Plank – The plank has become one of my favorite exercises! Not only is it a low impact exercise for your back, but it is one of the best in building core strength. Your core will be burning and screaming (in a good way) while you plank. The plank was also very important in helping to redevelop my abs. I could barely walk two years ago and do a 30 second plank. Now, I am doing Long Lever Planks and Plank Walks for almost a minute.
6.) Pull-Up Bar Hang – This exercise decompresses the spine. Lower back pain happens often because of back compression. Step up to the pull-up bar, grip the bar with your hands and let yourself hang. Try to let your feet fall as far as possible. Also, bring your head slightly forward. Repeat 4 to 5 times. Hang on for as long as you can. I almost always do this before a gym workout. I sometimes will do this after completing sets of squats and lunges.
The only thing better than this would be a Teeter Hang-Up.
Enjoy these workouts, and keep on the look out for part two. Do these exercises to help relieve your pain or to help prevent future back pain. In my opinion, your back is the most important part of your body. You do EVERYTHING with it! I think it is a travesty that most companies don’t care about people’s back health. It is a serious problem that gets brushed away as nonsense very often. It’s a one size fits only a few chair you’re expected to sit in for hours. It’s definitely no Herman Miller Aeron Chair..