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Exercising with Lower Back Pain

Increase Strength & Flexibility to Decrease Pain
  -- By Holly Little, Certified Personal Trainer

It’s a common problem for many who exercise. It makes everyday activity difficult, and scares a lot of people away from any physical activity. It’s lower back pain. For those of you who suffer from it, there is hope.  While there are a multitude of things that can cause back pain, from genetic malformations to injury, a number of recent studies show that a lack of core strength contributes to pain and stiffness in the lower back.


So what's the best way to deal with lower back pain that your health care provider has attributed to a lack of core strength? Exercise.  This might cause a little more pain in the beginning, but under the care of your health provider, it can reduce your pain in the long run.  And for many people, the long-term solution for back pain lies in abdominal, hip and lower back strengthening and stretching exercises.

Some pain or aches in your lower back might be the result of weak abdominal muscles. When you have a weak abs, you are more likely to have poor posture and your lower back muscles are forced to take over, which can strain them in a way that becomes uncomfortable or painful over time. You can minimize back pain by doing exercises that make the muscles in your abs stronger, while also training to increase the strength and flexibility level in your lower back, hips and thighs.

Everyone's back pain is different, so it's a good idea to check with your health care provider about what's best for you. If core strength is your problem, the following exercises can help.

Leg Raises to strengthen stomach and hip muscles
How to: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides. Lift one leg off the floor to about a 45° angle. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 5 times with each leg. If that is too difficult, keep one knee bent and the foot flat on the ground while raising the opposite leg.

Leg Raises to strengthen back and hip muscles
How to: Lie on your stomach. Tighten the muscles in one leg and raise it from the floor. Raise it as high as you can (approximately 30°) without causing any discomfort to your lower back or lifting your hip off the floor. Hold your leg up for a count of 10 and return it to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 5 times with each leg.

Wall Slides to strengthen your back, hip and leg muscles
How to: Stand with your back against a wall and feet shoulder-width apart. Slide down into a crouch until the knees bend to about 90°. Count to 5 and slide back up the wall. Repeat 5 times.

Partial Sit-Up to strengthen stomach muscles
How to: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor and reach with both hands toward your knees. Count to 10. Repeat 5 times.

Back Leg Swing to strengthen hip and back muscles
How to: Stand behind a chair with your hands on the back of the chair. Lift one leg back and up while keeping the knee straight. Return slowly. Raise the other leg and return. Repeat 5 times with each leg.

Exercises to increase flexibility and stretch out the back
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on your bed or floor. Raise your knees toward your chest. Place both hands under your knees and gently pull your knees as close to your chest as possible. Do not raise your head. Do not straighten your legs as you lower them. Start with 5 repetitions, several times a day.

Remember to never exercise to the point of sharp pain or discomfort, and gradually progress to more repetitions or sets of an exercise. Although it can be uncomfortable or slightly painful to strengthen the areas of your body that are causing your back pain, the benefit will be there in the long run. Say so long to the pain in your back!