Doctors estimate that 80% of Americans will experience lower back pain some time in their lives. Such pain can be crippling, limiting your day-to-day activities so that even standing up or sitting down can be painful.
In most cases, this pain is caused by stress or minor injuries—and can be alleviated by strengthening a certain group of muscles. (However, sometimes the cause can be more complex, such as herniated or slipped discs, spinal stenosis, or degenerative arthritis. In these cases, seeing a specialist or physical therapist is a must.) Here are some tips for such strengthening:
Strengthen your core: Once simple fix is strengthening your abs. Your lower back is not supposed to support your core entirely and if it has to, the muscles in the lower back are being overused. Try adding a plank into your daily routine. Balance on your forearms and toes, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders. Keep your core tight and strong.
Work your upper back: Bad posture can put a strain on your lower back and, unfortunately, these days, we are often hunched over a computer or staring down at our smartphones. Working the muscles in your upper back (rhomboids, trapezius) can help to pull your shoulders back, forcing you stand/sit up straighter. Try the Superman to strengthen your upper back. Start on your stomach. Pinch between your shoulder blades and lift your arms up about 6-10 in off the floor. Next squeeze your glutes and lift your feet about 6 in from the ground. Keep your spine straight by looking into the ground
Work your lower back: People are often afraid that working their lower back muscles will make them hurt even more. At Countdown, we try to get those muscles stronger so that they can support your spine. Here are a few exercises that you can do that are safe and efficient.
For all three of them, begin on your hands and knees. Make sure that your hands are directly under your shoulders, and your knees are directly under your hips, forming a flat tabletop with your back.
• Bird dog: Extend one leg backwards, keeping the knee straight and your toes pointed. Now, extend the opposite arm straight forward. Look straight down at the floor, keeping your spine straight. Hold the pose for 30 seconds, the switch sides. Repeat four times.
• Child’s pose: Spread your knees apart. Sit back on your heels and extend your arms forward. Stay in this position for one minute.
• Cat/cow: Begin in a neutral spine position, with your back flat and your abs engaged. (1) The Cat: Inhale deeply. On the exhale, round your spine up towards the ceiling and imagine you’re pulling your belly button up towards your spine, really engaging your abs. Tuck your chin towards your chest and let your neck release. (2) The Cow: On your inhale, arch your back, let your belly relax and be loose. Lift your head and tailbone up towards the sky, without putting any unnecessary pressure on your neck.
If any of these exercises hurt in a bad way, stop immediately.