Pain in the upper and lower back, if occurring frequently, can restrict your movement, limit your activities and affect your lifestyle. Without costly treatment or physiotherapy, you can relieve back pain through simple exercises that you can perform at home.
Here are some common exercises to reduce back pain. If you have access to a trainer or physiotherapist, he/she can teach you some more exercises. We will also touch briefly on exercises that you should avoid.
- Lie on your back and keep your feet flat on the floor, bend your knees
- Put your hands behind your head or cross them on your chest
- Raise your shoulders from the floor, and make sure your stomach muscles are tight
- As you raise your shoulders, breathe out, hold for a second.
- Lower yourself back to the floor slowly and steadily
- Do 8 to 12 repetitions.
- Ensure your feet and lower back are pressed firmly against the floor throughout
- Lie on your back, bend your knees and bring them toward your belly as if you’re sitting on a chair.
- Extend your hands out on either side and keep your palms face-down on the floor
- Keep your knees together and hands on the floor, then gently bend both knees over to your right side, hold for 15–20 seconds.
- Return to the original position and perform the above step by bending your knees to the left side, hold again for 15–20 seconds.
- Do 5-10 repetitions on each side.
- Lie on your back and bend your right knee slightly
- Take a towel and wrap its center around the ball of the left foot and hold the loose ends of the towel with your hands
- Pull the towel towards your chest so that the left leg is raised in the air
- Straighten the left knee; so you can feel a gentle stretch in the back of the left leg.
- Hold the stretch for at least 15-30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat the exercise
- Do 5-10 repetitions on each leg.
- Stand with your back against a wall
- Lean into the wall till your spine is flat against the wall
- Slide down the wall slowly till your knees are bent at a right angle, as if you are sitting on a chair
- Keep your lower back pressed against the wall.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds and carefully slide back into your original position
- Repeat 10 to 12 times
Press-up Back Extensions
- Lie on your stomach. Pull your hands closer to your shoulder and position them directly below your shoulders. Your upper hand and lower hand form a perfect right angle now
- Press down on your lower hands which are resting on the floor.
- You should feel your shoulders starting to lift slightly, and some stress in your shoulders
- Hold this position for several seconds; then relax your hands
- Repeat 10 to 12 times
Bird and Dog Stretch
- Get on your hands and knees as if you are going to walk on all fours
- Tuck in your abdominal muscles.
- Lift one leg and extend it behind you without dropping your hips
- Hold this position for 5 seconds
- Now switch to the other leg, repeat 10 to 12 times on both legs.
- Do steps 1, 2, and 3 as above
- Lift the hand opposite to the leg that is lifted, and bring it in front of you straight and parallel to your torso and lifted leg
- Don’t let your lower back muscles or hips to sag
- Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds
- Switch hands and legs now and repeat the exercise
- Do 10 to 12 repetitions on both hands/legs
Cat and Cow Stretch
- Get onto your hands and knees as if you are going to walk on all fours
- Keep your knees hip-width apart. This is the starting position
- Arch your back up, as if you are pulling your belly button up toward your spine
- Drop your head forward. This is the cat portion of the stretch
- Hold for 5–10 seconds. You should feel your back muscles stretching
- Return to the starting position
- Raise your head up and drop your pelvis, so that your back curves down toward the floor. This is the cow stretch
- Hold for 5–10 seconds, and then return to the starting position
- Repeat the exercise 15–20 times
Knee to Chest
- Lie on your back. Keep your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees.
- Raise the right leg and bend it such that the right knee is close to your chest.
- Keep the left foot and your lower back flat against the floor.
- Hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Lower your right knee; repeat the exercise with the left leg.
- Do 5 to 6 repetitions on both legs
- Lie down on the floor, on your back
- Keep your hands on either side with the palms pressing against the floor
- Bend your knees and ensure only your heels are touching the floor.
- Press your glutes (buttocks) down and lift your hips such that your shoulders, hips, and knees make a single, straight line at an angle to the floor
- Hold this position for 10 seconds.
- Gently drop your hips back to the floor and rest for 10 seconds
- Do 10 to 12 repetitions
In addition to the above, you can also do pilates with the help of a trainer, and aerobic exercises such as swimming, as long as you don’t twist your back. Avoid exercises like standing toe-touches, sit-ups and leg lifts as these can strain your lower back muscles and increase the pain.