This video was originally shot as part of my Facebook Live session at 24/7 Health and Fitness Center.
Low back pain is an ailment that afflicts a number of people. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, some 31 million Americans suffer from low back pain at some time or another. In orthopedic surgeon Dr. Nicholas DiNubile’s book Framework for the Lower Back, he states that 30% to 40% of people will have compressed, bulging, or degenerated disks in our backs by age 40. However, inactivity is NOT a solution to back pain. In fact, a key to a healthy back and alleviating low back pain is to do exercises to strengthen your core and to do stretches that loosen the muscles.
This video is a 20 minute exercise routine that I developed for one of my clients who was suffering from low back pain. I combined principles from Framework for the Lower Back as well as Pilates exercises to come up with a work out to strengthen and stretch the low back and provide some relief. Upon completing this series for the first time, he felt immediate relief in his low back pain. This series of exercises is low impact enough that it can be done if you are suffering from the pain right now. At the very least, it can be done 2 to 3 times per week In fact, if you’re suffering from low back pain on a regular basis, you may wish to at least do the stretches while taking breaks at work; especially if you have a job that requires lots of sitting.
NOTE: As with any exercise, you should consult your physician before doing any exercise program to make sure you are healthy enough for exercise. Individual results may vary.
What you need
The Work Out
Warm Up – you should spend at least 3-5 minutes doing a warm up. This could be a brisk walk, marching in place, 5 minutes on the elliptical machine, jumping jacks…really, just something to get the blood moving in your muscles.
Pillar Stretch – interlace your fingers together and reach toward the ceiling. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Then, while still reaching upward, tilt towards your right and hold for 10 seconds; then tilt left and hold for 10 seconds
Climb the Rope – Like it sounds, imagine you are climbing a rope. Reach up toward the ceiling with you right arm, and then pull the “rope” down; then reach the left hand up and grab the rope, pulling down. Repeat on each side 5 or 6 times
Note: If you’re suffering from a really tight low back, repeat these exercises 3 times, and try to hold the stretches for 30 seconds rather than 10 seconds.
Standing spinal twist – cross your arms and hold them up to chest level, twist at the waist to your left and then twist to your right. Repeat 5 times. Make sure to keep your hips square, and twist from the waist not the hips.
Standing Can Opener – While standing, raise your leg with a bent knee, bringing your knee to waist level. Rotate out from your center keeping your knee bent, and then lower your leg to the ground. Repeat with each leg 5 – 6 times.
Note: The following exercises use a Pilates breath in the movement pattern to engage the deeper abdominal muscles. Pilates breath consists of a deep inhale through the nose, and a deep exhale through the mouth while making a strong “ssshhhhh” sound. When breathing out, focus on pushing all of the breath from your lungs.
Glute Bridge – Lie on you back and bend your knees so that both feet are on the ground at about hip width apart. Rest your arms at your side. Take a deep inhale, then while exhaling, push through your heels, engage your glutes and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Hold this position for about 2 seconds, and then inhale as you slowly lower back down to the ground. Repeat 8 times.
Low Back Stretch – While lying on your back, pull your knees to your chest. Hold for 10 seconds.
Modified Half Roll Up – Lying on your back, have your knees bent and feet placed on the ground about hip width apart. Lift your arms over your shoulders, with your fingers pointing toward the sky. Take an inhale, and then on an exhale roll your head and shoulders off the mat. Your mid and low back should remain on the mat, and you should come high enough so that you’re looking at your belly button (one of the few times navel gazing is acceptable). On an inhale, role your head and shoulders back to the mat. Repeat 8 times.
Side plank – Lie on your right side, and prop yourself up by resting on your elbow. Make sure your elbow is in line with your shoulder. Place the sides of both feet on the mat, so that they are in line with each other and so that your left foot is on the heel of your right foot. Driving through the heels, lift your hips off the ground and hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
Superman – Lie on your stomach, with your arms reaching out overhead as if you were flying like Superman. Zip your thighs together, and pull your belly button in toward your spine (do this by imagining what you would do if someone were to touch an ice cube to your belly button). On an inhale, engage your glutes and low back and lift your arms and legs, hovering in the air. Hold for 2 seconds, and then lower down with an exhale. Repeat 8 times.
Childs Pose – Come onto all fours, and push back so that your knees are bent, almost sitting on your heels, while you reach forward with your arms. Your head should be in the mat with your arms overhead. If you have shoulder issues, you can place your arms to the side instead of overhead.
Bird Dog – Come up onto all fours, making sure your hands are lined up under your shoulders and knees are lined up under hips. On an inhale, extend your right arm forward toward the wall and your left leg back toward the opposite wall. Exhale, and draw your right arm and left leg back into your body. Repeat 8 times. Them extend the left arm and right leg 8 times on the same pattern.
Plank – On all fours, line up your hands under your shoulders. Extend the right leg back, and then left leg back so that your body is in as straight a line as possible. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat for another 30 seconds after a brief rest.
Psoas Stretch – Kneel onto your right knee and place your left leg out in front, with your left foot firmly planted on the ground. Raise both arms over head, and push your hips forward until you feel a stretch in your right thigh and hip. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat with your left knee kneeling and your right leg in front.
Stability ball spine stretch – Lie with your back on a stability ball. Slowly roll yourself on your back over the stability ball as if you were trying to touch the floor with your hands. You should feel a stretch in your back. Hold for 10 seconds. Next, kneel in front of the stability ball and slowly crawl your stomach over the ball until you’re touching the ground with your hands while your feet are still in contact with the ground. Hold for 10 seconds.
Repeat this routine at least 2 to 3 times a week of you suffer from chronic low back pain. Increase the reps for the individual exercises from 8 to 10 and then 12 reps as you progress. As an additional resource, I recommend you pick up a copy of Framework for the Lower Back for additional exercises you can do as you progress and recover from low back pain.