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Back Pain Center

Low Back Decompression Exercises

by
author image Henry Halse
Henry Halse is a Philadelphia-based personal trainer, speaker, and writer. He's trained a wide variety of people, from couch potatoes to professional athletes, and helped them realize their own strength, determination and self-confidence. Henry has also written for various fitness and lifestyle publications, including Women’s Health, AskMen and Prevention.
Low Back Decompression Exercises
Spinal decompression exercises fight the effects of gravity. Photo Credit Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

Every day, your spine feels the effects of gravity, even if you don't. Just walking around or sitting down during the day, gravity is constantly pulling down on your spine, compressing it ever so slightly. This compression can add up over the day, and you can lose up to half an inch of height from your spine over time.

In severe cases, you may need spinal decompression surgery. Before that happenS, fight the effects of gravity on your spine you can try a few simple exercises at home.

Disc Decompression

When gravity pulls your spine down during the day, it slowly squeezes fluid out of the discs between the vertebrae of your spine. As these discs slowly compress, your spine actually gets shorter. In order to lengthen your spine, you need to take pressure off of the discs to allow them to get fluid back to restore their shape.

If you have injuries to your discs, such as a herniation, or injuries to your spine, like a fractured vertebrae, spinal compression can be very painful. In order to heal these injuries, you need to take pressure off of the disc or the vertebrae to allow them time to recover.

Read More: Squats and Spinal Compression

Your spine naturally decompresses while you sleep, but this may not be enough to heal your injuries. In extreme cases, spinal decompression surgery can be performed, or a spinal decompression machine that gently lengthens your spine can be used. These options can be complex and costly, but there are simple and cost-free exercises that you can do throughout the day to decompress your spine.

Hanging

While your grip strength will be challenged with this exercise, it is worth the burning in your forearm. Gravity will actually help lengthen your spine while you hang, instead of compressing it.

How To: Grab a pull-up bar with both hands and lift your feet off of the ground so that you are hanging in the air. Keep your elbows straight and arms relaxed and let gravity lengthen your spine.

Cobra

A 2009 study published in the Journal of Manipulative Physical Therapy shows that holding a lumbar hyperextension posture, similar to a cobra pose, for 10 minutes regularly will decompress your lower spine.

How To: Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders and legs straight. Press your arms up but keep your hips and legs on the ground, bending your lower back. Hold this position to allow your discs to decompress.

Cobra position will help decompress your spine.
Cobra position will help decompress your spine. Photo Credit Cherina Jones

Child's Pose

Similar to Cobra pose, which allows your spine to decompress by bending backward, Child's pose bends the spine forward. Hold this position for 10 minutes to allow the spine to fully decompress.

How To: Kneel on the ground with your butt on your heels. Lean forward and reach your arms up so your elbows are straight. Try to place your forehead on the ground. Keep your body as relaxed as possible and sink into the stretch, feeling your spine lengthen.

Exercise Ball Stretch

If you have trouble getting into any of the positions above, this exercise is a very easy alternative.

How To: Using an inflatable ball, lie on your stomach and allow your spine to bend over the ball. Let your arms and legs hang down. Plant your hands on the ground to help yourself balance.

Read More: Exercises to Relieve L5-S1 Compression

Chair Care

If you sit a lot during the day, gravity will slowly pull your spine down. Use this exercise often to lengthen your spine and allow fluid to seep back into your intervertebral discs.

How To: Sitting in your chair with your feet planted on the ground, place your hands on the side of the chair next to your butt. Straighten your arms out and lean back slightly. Your arms should take most of your bodyweight off of the seat so that you feel weightless. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds and then relax your arms. Repeat this for one minute.

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