Best Back Exercises For People With Back Pain from Best Back Exercises For People With Back Pain

Best Back Exercises For People With Back Pain

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Best Back Exercises For People With Back Pain

As much as 80 percent of people in the U.S. will experience a back problem at some time in their lives, according to the American Chiropractic Association.

It is one of the most common reasons for missed work and the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office.

“While there are numerous causes for back pain, one of the most common in my experience is muscle strain,” Robert A. Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC, from the Iris City Chiropractic Center, says. “Sometimes this is related to lifting things that are too heavy or lifting at the wrong angle, lifting too quickly, or lifting with poor body mechanics.”

Whatever exercises you do, especially lifting, you have to remember to always keep you back straight, he adds. Dr. Hayden doesn’t recommend back extensions. “When you think about it, extending the back beyond midline is not a natural position for the back. Back extensions are contraindicated for many acute conditions that cause back pain.”

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Bridges

“Bridges are excellent exercises for building and maintaining core strength,” Hayden says. “I would use this exercise to maintain that strength for the purpose of avoiding back strains, but not necessarily for treating them because there is the possibility of back extensions in bridging that would not work in your favor,” he adds. The Yoga bridge pose, in particular, is an excellent way to stretch the front of your hips and open your chest.

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Opposite Direction Moves

The most common cause for back pain that Chris Leib, a doctor of physical therapy at Movement Professional, sees is not varying body movements enough. “The body gets very imbalanced,” he adds. If you’re sitting all day, the muscles in the front get short and the muscles in the back get long. Stand up and bend your back backwards as often as possible. Another exercise is to sit in a chair, put your hand behind your head and open your elbows. “This is a great counter-balance movement,” he adds.

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Partial Crunches

Sit-ups involve lying supine, sometimes with knees bent, and raising yourself off of the floor from the waist. “This uses a muscle that was never intended to pick up your body weight,” Hayden says. “It is the primary flexor for the hip, and it actually attaches to the lumbar spine.” The act of doing a sit-up actually pulls you into a seated position using your lumbar spine, which is not good. Partial crunches are much better as they can help strengthen your back and abs.

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Yoga

There are excellent exercises, such as yoga, that involve bending to maintain maximum flexibility. “I have had many patients flourish with these exercise approaches,” Hayden says. Certain poses really help to gently relieve pain and tightness in your back. Studies have found that participants who practiced yoga or stretching were twice as likely to cut down on pain medications prescribed for back pain, when compared with those who managed symptoms on their own.

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Isometrics

“I more frequently use isometrics or exercises aimed at maximizing range of motion,” Hayden says. Isometric training is a type of strength training in which the joint angle and muscle don’t change length during contraction. An isometric strength exercise is typically performed against an immovable object. Examples include planks, side planks, wall-sits or boat pose.

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Deadlifts

“When done properly, deadlifts can be one of the best things for your back,” Leib says. “You can lift anything from the ground and not feel pain,” he adds. But you have to make sure you keep a straight line from the ears to the hips. “Move only through the hips,” he adds. The deadlift will activate your back muscles as well as your glutes and hamstrings. You can also do Romanian deadlifts or single-leg deadlifts.

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Pilates

“I have not seen Pilates exercises that are bad yet,” Hayden says. “One of our patients dropped out of sight for about six months and returned looking decades younger, sculpted by yoga and Pilates.” It builds strength while maintaining flexibility, and that is the key. As with most exercise programs, if something causes you pain while doing it, back off that activity and check with your chiropractor.

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Swimming

Swimming is a whole body sport. Many muscles are involved, which is also a strong plus, Hayden says. “It is also non-weight bearing.” Particularly among seniors, swimming is a good choice for exercise with arthritic joints because it takes gravity out of the equation, he adds. Leib adds that swimming, however, is not a good idea if you don’t do well when rotating the spine.

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Walk

“This will sound simple, but the best aerobic exercise I have found for people with back problems generally is walking,” Hayden says. You can also get in shape just by walking. “I am not a fan of jogging because it is high impact for the knees, hips, and spine, but walking engages the postural muscles of the spine, increasing strength, promoting circulation, and creating motion.” All of those are very healing to a spine that is injured and will help promote spine health.

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Cat Stretch

Another good exercise/stretch for people with acute back problems is the cat stretch, according to Hayden. To accomplish this, get on your hands and knees (“on your all-fours”) and alternatively arch your back, holding for a few seconds, then rock your pelvis forward. “This gently moves the structures in the low back, engages back muscles, and stimulates some nerves that go to the cerebellum and help your body rediscover where its parts are and maintain control over them,” he adds.

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Get Up and Down

Any kind of exercise that will get you up and down to and from the ground is a good move, Leib says. “Try to do that as a preventative measure,” he adds. Sit in a cross-leg position, then stand up, extend your hand to your knees. Vary the movements.

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Knee Chest Stretch

Hayden says he also teaches patients to do a knee chest stretch. Lie on your back and either pull your knee toward your chest or have a partner (even better) move your knee to your chest and lean on it slightly to help you stretch the hip and low back.  Always do this on both sides, or you will walk in circles all day.

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Hamstring stretch

This is a passive exercise where you don’t use a lot of effort. Lay on your back; your spine should be in neutral position. Bend one or both knees. Lift one leg up with the heel toward the ceiling and stretch until you feel it in the back of your thigh. Hold for 15 seconds and relax. Repeat a few times.

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Bird Dog

“This is a very healthy exercise that teaches you how to maintain neutral spine,” Leib says. It’s also great for the abs. It may not look like much but this exercise will really work out your core. Start by getting on all fours. Your back should always be straight. Reach out with one hand and extend the opposite leg. Engage your abs to maintain balance. Hold for a few seconds and switch. Repeat each side about 15 times.

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Pelvic tilts

Pelvic tilts can certainly be a helpful exercise, especially of people are having trouble with abdominal muscles. It’s also great for people who have a big arch on their back. Pelvic tilts are an active exercise from one position where the abs are isolated and used to move the spine. “It’s like decompressing the spine. It opens up and stretches the lower part of the spine,” he adds. Lay on your back; knees should be bent. Draw up the muscles of your pelvis and lower abdominals. Hold for 15 seconds and relax.

Best Back Exercises For People With Back Pain