Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief

Are you a serial sitter? Unfortunately, nowadays most of us tend to be. When you lead an inactive lifestyle where you spend a lot of your time — professionally or personally — seated, your posture, and eventually your health take the brunt of the blow. We drive to work to sit at our desks only to return home and relax by sitting on our sofas. This excessive amount of sitting over a period of time can have detrimental effects on our well-being and, in particular, our posture and spine health, eventually leading to lower back issues.

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“Why do I have lower back pain?”

Before you dive into the best exercises for lower back pain, it’s important to understand that there are a multitude of reasons why an individual would experience muscle soreness. In the case of this article, we’ll focus on the most common one: sitting. Over time, prolonged periods of sitting can manipulate our posture, resulting in specific muscles becoming weaker.

The seated position anatomically means that we don’t engage our abs and glutes, which can result in them switching off and falling asleep. The fall out of this is that other muscles have to work harder to compensate and support the body.  The muscles in our lower backs become overworked while our hip flexor muscles mainly the psoas — that attaches to the femur and lumbar spine — become tight and tense. It’s this imbalance that triggers the pain, especially in our lower back.

3 Stretches to do for lower back pain

A common culprit in lower back pain due to sitting are tight or shortened hip flexors, which connect to your iliopsoas muscle, and often result in weak or compromised lower back and glute muscles. The following effective static stretches will help stretch out those muscles and deliver lower back relief. Regular practice of these stretches will also aid in bettering your posture long term.

1. Deep lunge stretch for hip flexors

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Muscle stretched: Hip flexor

Count: 20 seconds on each side (hold for longer if desired)

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Start on your knees, lean forward and place your hands on the floor/mat directly in front of you.
  2. Place your right foot by your right hand next to the thumb then lift your hands off the floor place them on your hips for stability.
  3. Raise your chest up slowly until your torso is upright.
  4. The right knee should be bent at a 90° angle and directly above your right ankle.
  5. While exhaling, bend your right knee slowly and maintain an upright upper body.
  6. Hold for 20 seconds. The stretch should be felt in the upper right thigh.
  7. While inhaling, slowly lean back to start position.
  8. Switch your lead leg and repeat.

2. Pigeon stretch to open hips

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Muscle stretched: Hip flexor

Count: 20 seconds on each side (hold for longer if desired)

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Start on hands and knees with your arms shoulder-width and legs hip-width apart.
  2. Place right knee forward behind the right hand.
    Place right ankle as close to your left hip as possible without straining.
  3. The right leg should lie directly on the floor with the right ankle as close to the left hand as possible. Depending on your natural mobility, the more parallel the leg is with the front of the mat, the more intense the hip opener.
  4. Slide left leg back, straighten and point toes directly behind your body with hips square.
  5. Exhale and walk your fingertips forward, gently lowering upper body down (place a cushion or yoga block under your butt
  6. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and rest on your fingertips, forearms or if comfortable with forehead on the floor.
  7. Release the stretch slowly and reverse the motion by slowly lifting chest and walking the hands back, raising the hips and return to start position on all fours.
  8. Switch leading leg and repeat.

3. Cat-cow stretch to mobilize and release the spine

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Muscles stretched: Spine

Count: Repeat 10-20 times

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Start on hands and knees with arms shoulder-width and legs hip-width apart.
  2. Spread fingers comfortably wide for stability.
  3. Your back should be in a tabletop position with head held neutral and gaze downward.
  4. Begin with cow pose: Inhale and slowly direct your belly towards the mat as you lift your chin and chest up at the same time — gaze upwards.
  5. Draw shoulders away from ears and hold for a second.
  6. Transition directly into cat pose: Exhale and pull your belly to your spine, rounding your back with your head and chin tucked into your chest — don’t force your chin to your chest.
  7. Hold for a second or two then transition back to cow pose.
  8. Repeat about 20 times.

What are the best exercises for lower back pain?

There is no single best exercise for lower back pain, the key is to build up strength in your core and glutes, which often tend to be weak; consequently, the lower back works overtime to compensate. Strengthen your core and relieve your lower back. Below are a selection of the best core and ab workouts that don’t strain your back straight from the 8fit app.

1. Hyperextensions

Muscles involved: Shoulders, lower back, abs, glutes

Count: Count one every time you return to start position

Tips:

  • Keep shoulders back and down away from ears
  • Keep chin down, neck neutral

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Lie face down on your stomach with hands at your sides and palms facing down.
  2. Keep your hips and feet anchored, then lift your chest and hands off the floor.
  3. Pause at the top, then lower your chest and hands back down to the floor.

2. Swimmers

Muscles involved: Lower back, abs, glutes, shoulders

Count: Left-right as one

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Lie face down on your stomach with arms stretched out straight in front and palms on the floor.
  2. Lift your hands and feet up off the floor until your body forms an arc from fingers to toes.
  3. Simultaneously lift the left hand and the right foot higher, as your right hand and left foot drop lower.
  4. Alternate sides and repeat the movement. Every 2 kicks counts as 1 rep.

Tips:

  • Keep arms and legs straight, shoulders down away from ears
  • Keep chin down, neck neutral

3. Glute bridge

Muscles involved: Glutes, hamstrings, lower back, abs

Count: Count one every time you return to start position

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  2. Press weight into your heels to raise your hips.
  3. Lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees, and squeeze your glutes at the top.
  4. Lower your hips back down to return to start position.

Tips:

  • Keep core engaged for balance
  • Press shoulder blades back and down anchored to the floor
  • Press hands into floor for extra support

4. Plank spiderman

Muscles involved: Abs, shoulders, glutes, triceps

Count: Left-right as one

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Place elbows on the floor directly underneath your shoulders with forearms parallel, legs straight behind, feet together and toes curled under.
  2. Tense every muscle to keep your body in a straight line from the head through to heels.
  3. Bring your right knee forward towards your right elbow, then return to plank position.
  4. Repeat and bring your left knee toward your left elbow.

Tips:

  • Keep neck long, shoulders back and down away from ears
  • Don’t sink into shoulders
  • Keep hips still and body in a straight line
  • Breathe slowly and steadily, don’t hold your breath

5. Air Plunge

Muscles involved: Shoulders, back, chest

Count: One every time you return to start position

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Lie on your back with hands extended at your sides, lower back pressed into the floor.
  2. Bring your knees to your chest and kick straight legs up to lift hips off the floor.
  3. Tuck your knees in towards your stomach and extend your legs straight to hover your feet a few inches off the floor.
  4. Tuck your knees back to start position.

Tips:

  • Keep neck long with shoulders back and down away from ears
  • Engage core and press lower back into floor
  • For additional support, place hands under butt

6. Inverted Plank

Muscles involved: Shoulders, abs, triceps, hamstrings, glutes

Count: 20-30 second hold

How to perform one repetition:

  1. Sit on a mat, legs extended with your heels on the floor.
  2. Place your hands directly under your shoulders.
  3. Lean back on your hands and raise your hips off the floor.
  4. Tense every muscle in tour body to form a straight line from your head to your heels.
  5. Hold the position for the indicated amount of time.

Tips:

  • Keep neck long, shoulders back and down away from ears
  • Don’t sink down into shoulders
  • Keep core engaged, hip up and body in a straight line
  • Breathe slow and steady, do not hold breath

Pain-free and stronger

To guarantee you have noticeable alleviation of lower back pain, focus on strengthening your core and stretching out overworked muscles. This will also do wonders for posture and general well-being. The sooner you add the above stretches and exercises to your daily workout routine the sooner your body will reap the benefits.

If you’re workout novice,  the 8fit workouts are also a great place to start as they are full-body workouts to strengthen and tone up, for a fitter you. I would advise that you work out at least four times a week so that you feel stronger and free yourself of lower back pain.