Do you avoid exercise due to back pain? This is common amongst many individuals and stops many from getting active on a daily basis. Back pain can be due to many reasons but the most common I come across are from individuals who had careers or have jobs that require sitting all day, those who have weak abdominal muscles which commonly result from sitting all day and those who use their back to lift heavy objects. This repetitive motion in bad form causes muscle imbalances and after years of entrusting the support of your back causes damage in the lower part of your spine also known medically as the lumbar spine. With this pain you may suffer from feeling lazy because exercise is out of the question but let’s be honest here, you can always go on a walk to get started!
The lumbar spine means lion in Latin and rightfully owns this title due to its power to twist, bend and lift your upper body around. The lumbar spine bears the most weight and is prone to injury if you do not support it with strong abdominals, flexible hamstrings and sturdy glutes. For instance, if you had a career where you sat for eight hours a day, the back of your legs depend on a chair, your hip flexors are no longer in motion and become tight and your abdominal muscles become weak from having back support on a chair.
Not only will these five stretches relieve your lower back pain, it will create a strong posture.
Stretch 1: Cat Stretch
This Pilates exercise will be performed in four breaths. You will inhale deeply through the nose to prepare, aiming the breath towards the back of the rib cage and exhale deeply through the mouth.
Start by positioning yourself on all fours on your mat or towel. Adjust your hands so they rest directly under your shoulders and avoid overextending your elbows. Have your knees directly under your hips.
Have your spine in a neutral position. Your neck needs to follow this line naturally.
Inhale to prepare. As you begin to exhale, think of flattening the abdominal region; imagine gently pulling your belly button towards your spine. Pull in your lower abdominal muscles and curl the lower back, middle back and upper back towards the ceiling.
Relax your neck at the end. Picture an ‘angry cat’.
Inhale and stay. As you exhale, reverse the movement, articulating back from the neck, upper back, middle back and lower back, returning to neutral without losing the control in the abdominals.
Repeat this four times. Always concentrate on curling up and down through the centre of the spine.
Stretch 2: Torso Twist Torso Twist
This is my favorite stretch to do after a full body workout because it really helps stretch the IT band, the oblique muscles and the back. After a workout our bodies tend to want to hunch because the muscles have been tightened. It is important to do LONG stretches ones that stretch your body long so you can literally stretch the elastic out or in this case the muscle. Our IT bands tend to be really tight from sitting so pulling the leg towards you and breathing in as you bring it closer towards you will help stretch that muscle out. The twisting twists the lower back area as well as the obliques, be gentle with this one!
Stretch 3: Opposite Arm to Opposite Knee Touch
Prepare. The breathing is the same as in the previous exercise, but here we will perform the movement in 2 breaths.
Stay in exactly the same position as in the cat stretch.
If your wrists are beginning to tire, relax for a few minutes and gently circle them round.
Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, lift the right hand and left knee off the floor, fully extending both out in opposite directions.
Inhale to return to all fours again. Then exhale, and do the same on the other side.
Pay particular attention to the supporting arm and leg. Do not allow them to collapse taking the body out of line.
Stretch 4: Cobrah
Prepare. The breathing is the same as in the previous exercise but here it will be performed in four breaths.
Change your position to lie face down on your mat. Have your feet and legs together and the tip of your nose lightly resting on the mat. Place your hands either side of your shoulders, so that your elbows rest comfortably on the mat.
If you feel a lot of pressure on your lower back in this position, place a small towel just under your hip bones for support.
Inhale to prepare. As you exhale, draw your shoulders down on your back, keeping the neck in line and extend up off the floor.
Inhale and stay. Think of lengthening forwards from your head, then exhale, to gently return back to the mat.
Repeat. Do the same thing four times, concentrating on maintaining your abdominals firm throughout. You will feel your upper back and shoulders working.
Stretch 5: Ankle on the Knee
Lower back pain can be due to sitting a lot and not using the core strength daily so being sure to use your hamstrings and stretch them out to relieve this pain. Our hamstrings get really tight from sitting! Ever notice the back of your thighs feeling tired after running up the stairs..well this could be due to not having strong flexible hamstrings. Mimic the stretch photographed below and make sure to inhale and exhale before bringing that leg in closer to you!
Caution:: Warm up your muscles before performing any of these stretches, stretching your muscles cold can be dangerous, feel free to do these after a warm bath or sauna those are great times to stretch and really relax! Before performing or practicing stretching please consult a physician or chiropractor.
I hope these stretches help you and make it possible for you to workout more often. When I say how much recovery time has SAVED my workouts I mean it. For a long time deadlifts really got to my lower back because of the inflexibility in my hamstrings and hip flexors. Sometimes an exercise might cause more harm to you if you don’t get that flexibility. To take my workouts to the next level I had to personally stretch every night! I would put on sweats and rub my body until I felt heat and would stretch until I felt nice and relaxed, it was an add on to my day and one that took me a long time to sit down and actually do but with anything in life if you want to take things to the next level sometimes you have to get uncomfortable!
Try these stretches out and let me know in the comments below if they helped you at all! Remember to breathe, and do these after one of the Fit and Fabulous workouts or after your free 10 day workout challenge below (you can grab that below)
So I wanna know..
- What are your favorite stretches?
- Do you stretch often or do you skimp on it like I used to do?