Struggling with chronic back pain doesn’t exactly inspire you to get your body moving in the gym. But exercises that focus on your back can strengthen your muscles and may provide relief, particularly resistance exercises. Effective exercises for chronic back pain are important for supporting your spine and providing you with a long-term pain management solution. Your healthcare team can make recommendations about a specific workout regimen appropriate for you. Let’s look at a few simple exercises to help you begin.
Many people think that to strengthen their back they only need to work their back muscles. Actually your back and your abdominal muscles work together to keep you upright and well-supported, so you need to strengthen both. A great way to do this is by doing partial crunches.
To do a partial crunch, lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Stretch your arms towards the ceiling so they are perpendicular with the ground. Come up to a 20-degree angle, not the full 90-degree angle you’d do for a full sit-up. Reach for the ceiling, lifting your upper torso slightly off the ground by engaging your upper abdominal muscles. Slowly lower yourself back down. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
Do not put your hands behind your head or neck during crunches, as you can actually strain your neck muscles and cause more discomfort. Try to come about 5-6 inches off the floor. To be an effective exercise for chronic back pain, be sure to concentrate on engaging your abs and doing slow, controlled movements.
Banded Hamstring Stretches
Lower back pain is often caused by tension that builds up in your back, abdominal, and leg muscles. A daily hamstring stretch can go a long way toward relieving that pain. It can also be a stepping stone to getting up from your desk and moving more frequently throughout the day.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Using a towel or resistance band looped around the sole of your foot or shoe, straighten your leg and gently move your foot towards your forehead. This stretches your hamstring and gradually releases tension, serving as an ideal exercise for chronic back pain.
Wall sits engage your core and your legs to strengthen your whole body for optimal stability. It can be an ideal exercise for chronic back pain because it prompts us to focus on our posture and endurance.
Stand with your back to a wall and your heels 10-12 inches away from the wall. Lean back until your shoulders and back touch the wall. Slowly slide down the wall until you are in a seated position, supporting yourself with your thighs and core. Hold the position for 10 seconds, before standing upright and repeat 8-12 times. If at any time you feel the need to stop, you can stand upright or slide down to the floor to a seated position.
In addition to building up your abdominals, stretching your hamstrings and strengthening your legs and core, you’ll want to strengthen your back muscles to relieve back pain, too. Swimming is a great way to get a good cardio workout while strengthening your back, shoulders and arm muscles for a total body workout. Swimming allows you to get the benefits of resistance training while eliminating the risks of impact exercises. By strengthening your back muscles, your body weight will be better supported along your spine and not all the pressure resting on your lower back.