If you suffer from chronic lower back pain or are recovering from a minor back injury, strengthening your core muscles should be a primary focus of your rehabilitation program. A variety of specially targeted exercises will add stability to your spine while increasing your flexibility and reducing your chances of future re-injury and pain.
Take a look at four easy-to-learn, no-impact exercises that are designed to strengthen your spine and lower your risk of back pain through flexion and extension of your core muscles.
Hip Crossover Stretch
The hip crossover stretch allows you to gently stretch and release tightness in the piriformis muscle, which is located in the hip and buttock area and frequently contributes to lower back pain. To perform this simple stretch:
- Lie face up on the floor with your knees bent and about shoulder width apart
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee
- Use your hands to slowly pull your right knee toward your left shoulder
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, you should feel a stretch in your hips and buttocks
- Repeat three times on each side
Abdominal bracing exercises are designed to systematically contract the abdominal muscles in order to stiffen and stabilize the spine. An easy way to accomplish this is to:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, shoulder-width apart
- Lift your left knee up to meet your left hand and push while providing resistance with your hand
- Hold this position for five seconds, then return to the resting position
- Repeat using your right leg and right hand
- Continue alternating from right to left for 20 reps total
The bridge exercise is designed to help you strengthen the muscles in your back, buttocks and hamstrings.
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, shoulder-width apart
- Use your back and buttock muscles to gently raise your hips while keeping your shoulders on the floor
- Hold this position for five seconds before returning to a resting position
- Repeat these steps for three sets of 10 reps each
We're all familiar with the kind of squats that weightlifters use when lifting heavy barbells, but that's not the safest activity for your spine, especially if you're recovering from a back injury. Instead of a traditional squat, try this alternative (and leave the barbells at the gym). It will help you safely build core and leg strength that can protect your spine from unnecessary injuries going forward.
- Sit on the edge of a proper-height chair or bed
- Cross your arms over your chest with your fingers touching your shoulders
- Squeeze your buttocks and push on the floor with your legs as you rise to a standing position while keeping your back and neck in line
- Slowly bring yourself back down to a sitting position, again using the muscles in your legs and buttocks
- Perform three sets comprised of 10 squats each
If you have pain or injuries, please be sure to consult a physician prior to starting a new exercise program. Early therapy can be highly effective, so it’s important to seek help sooner rather than later. At AdventHealth, we believe in spine care that treats the whole person and rehabilitative care that helps you heal. Visit a spine specialist today to get started or learn more about physical therapy programs with AdventHealth Sports Med and Rehab.