We know planks and dead-lifts are great, but the real question is, how can they help relieve your aching back?
Back pain affects about 8 out of 10 people, according to the National Institutes of Health, and is one of the most common medical problems. It's costly too--in 2004, a team from Duke University found that treatment for back pain was estimated to cost nearly $26 billion annually.
A recent study from the University of Nevada found that those would walked backwards on the treadmill for 15 minutes three times a week reported less low back pain. But walking on the treadmill isn't the only option for relief; I asked Ian Hart, CSCS, co-creator of Back Pain Relief4Life and owner of EarthFIT fitness studio for simple at-home exercises that will strengthen the lower back, ease pain and help prevent injury in the long run.
"It is very important to do a warm up for at least 5 minutes before doing any of these exercises listed to prevent back pain. The warm up will bring blood flow to the working muscle and loosen them up so they are pliable for the exercise. A proper warm up should have you sweating and breathing hard, in fact just doing a warm up will assist in alleviating back pain," Ian says.
Problem: My back kills me after sitting at a computer desk all day for work.
Sitting at a desk all day is a perfect scenario for bringing on back pain. The stress point is generally right on the lower back and being in a seated position all day causes muscular imbalances which are basically like a tug-o-war that is going on inside the body. One muscle group is stronger than the other and it causes stress on the joints and the back tends to take the brunt of the stress.
Solution: The Knee Drop and Single Leg Frog leg will help loosen the tight muscles and strengthen the weak ones, taking pressure off the stressed areas including your lower back.
The Knee Drop
1. Lay on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, about 1 foot from butt.
2. Using the right leg, drop your right knee out to the side, as close to the floor as possible. You should feel a stretch in your right glute and inner thigh.
3. Bring the knee back to the starting position and repeat 3 sets of 8 then switch to the left leg.
Single Leg Frog
1. Lay on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor about 1 foot from the butt. Straighten the right leg (slightly hovering about the floor)
2. The movement is (pictured): pull the right knee to the chest, then drop it to the side as far as possible, then kick out the leg forward in front of you and rotate so you're back at the starting position.
3. Repeat 3 sets of 8 then switch to the left leg.
Problem: I feel tension/tightness in my back after sitting on the couch watching TV.
Ian's first reaction is to stop watching TV and get off the couch, especially if you are the same person who sits at a computer all day--being too sedentary causes the core muscles that support the spine to weaken, and as the days go by, you have less and less support.
Solution: Relieve tension with the chrysalis and seated jack knife stretches.
1. Start sitting on the floor, bottom of the feet together (pictured), knees slightly bent. Hold on to the toes.
2. Tuck your chin and pull your forehead towards your toes. (You'll feel it slightly in your groin, but put the emphasis on your lower back). Stay here for 8 counts.
3. Repeat 3 sets of 8.
Seated Jack Knife
1. Start seated on the floor, legs out straight, knees locked.
2. Tuck chin and pull your forehead towards your knees, feeling the stretch in your lower back. Stay here for 8 counts.
3. Repeat 3 sets of 8.
Problem: My lower back hurts when lifting my (friend's) kids.
When picking your kids up off the ground, it is extremely important to have proper form because with each wrong move you can cause micro trauma which are small tears. If you cause damage, scar tissue forms and recovery is hindered, then the area becomes weaker. So the muscles that support the spine lose strength and when a wrong movement pattern is done repeatedly it can result in a bigger issue that will lead to more and more pain and discomfort or serious conditions like a herniated discs, sciatica etc. Ian says.
Solution: Mimic real life, but use proper dead-lift form.
1. Stand straight, holding a kettlebell or even your child (depending on his/her size and your current fitness level).
2. Keep the lower back locked (it should not move at all), shoulders back, knees slightly bent, abs tight.
3. Push the hips back like you're going to stick your butt through a window, start to bend the knees, lowering the kettlebell towards the floor.
4. Return to the upright position. Do 3 sets of 15-20 reps.
Problem: My back hurts when I'm doing crunches.
There could be two reasons for this, the back muscles are very weak and/or the crunches are being done wrong and there is too much spinal flexion or stress on the lower back.
Solution: The bio-crunch helps prevent stress on the lower back and focuses on the area that stabilizes the spine while strengthening core muscles.
1. Lay on the floor with your hands below the back, elbows down. Lift the shoulders off the ground and hold the abs in a static crunch position for about 15-20 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Credit: All illustrations and videos via Ian Hart, EarthFIT fitness studio
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