Did you know that one-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year? Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and is one of the most common reasons for missed work. The back is a very complex structure made up of bones, ligaments, muscles and joints. Back pain can be a result of spraining a ligament, straining a muscle, irritating joints, or doing the simplest of tasks like picking up a box or a fallen object from the floor.
I loved this picture so I had to share;)
Soooo, that leads to my next point! Remember that awesome thing that I always talk about? The “miracle drug”? If you guessed exercise, then you are completely right! Exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent and treat chronic or recurring back pain. Exercises that strengthen the muscles that support the spine have the ability to prevent, reduce, and sometimes even completely get rid of lower back pain. Stretches for the back can also do this.
The core is one of the most important things to focus on for strengthening the back. Weak core muscles are often the root of the problem when it comes to back pain. The core muscles (muscles of the back, the abdomen, hips and buttocks) work together to support the spine. Think of your core as your center of gravity. It helps you sit upright (that good posture your mom always told you to have) and it keeps the spine stable so that we are able to perform our daily tasks. The core helps our spine stay put while we are moving around. If we strengthen our core and back, we will protect our back and have a great quality of life! No back pain = one happy person! :)
Those of you who have zero back pain may be thinking that I am wasting your time with all of this back pain jibber jabber…think again! EVERYONE can benefit from the following exercises. Prevention is key! Strengthen your back now so you don’t have to deal with back pain in the future.
***If you have had a recent back injury, make sure you talk to your doctor before performing these exercises.***
Choose a few of these exercises and do them at least three days a week:) Shoot for 10-15 reps of each exercise. When just starting out, do 5 reps of each. If you do not feel any post exercise pain, build your way up to 10-15.
Bird Dog (Opposite Arm and Opposite Leg):
Start on your hands and knees. Keep your core engaged throughout the entire exercise. Extend one arm to the front and extend the opposite leg to the back. Bend arm and leg to center of body and extend again. Repeat and try not to touch the ground until desired reps are performed.
Go into a pushup position. You can either hold the position here or get on your elbows/forearms. Keep your core engaged and keep your back straight- don’t let your bum stick out! Hold for at least 30 seconds. You can also do a side plank. Same thing, just facing to the side on one arm.
Lie on your stomach with your hands down by your side, palms facing the floor. Engage your core and lift your chest and your hands up off of the floor. As your lift up, turn your thumbs so that they are facing the ceiling (yep it feels kinda awkward!). Keep your feet on the floor. Hold for 2-5 seconds and repeat.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Engage your core and lift your bum and lower back off of the floor. Hold for a few seconds, bring your bum back down and repeat. To make this exercise harder, do it on one foot (hold other foot straight into the air).
Just the same as the bridge, but instead of bringing your bum back down, you are going to hold the bridge position and march your feet, right then left then right, etc.
Lie on your stomach with your arms up by your ears. Engage your core and lift your arms and legs at the same time. You should feel your lower back working!
Same as the superman exercise, but instead of lifting both arms and legs at once, lift your opposite arm and leg at the same time and repeat on the other side.
This is more of a back stretch…which is also super important! Start on all fours. Round your back (like a cat does), and then arch your back (Someone explained to me that this was the cow part because your stomach is lower to the ground like a cow’s udders…hahaha I was dying! I have never forgotten which part was the cat and which was the cow, so I guess the explanation was effective!)
For more core exercises, click here to check out Jaeme’s blog post about her favorite ab exercises (she has pretty rock hard abs, so I would take her advice haha).
Thanks!! Have fun strengthening that back of yours!
Statistics taken from the American Chiropractic Association