Lower back pain can prevent you from doing your normal daily activities as well as your usual exercise routine. While resting your back is important, you should do some type of activity to prevent further stiffness and loss of strength. At-home stretching exercises plus light cardio can stretch out tight muscles, which assists in pain-relief. Always consult with a doctor and/or physical therapist prior to engaging in any type of exercise program to treat lower-back pain.
Pumped Up Heart
Cardiovascular exercise increases the blood flowing to sore back muscles, bringing in fresh oxygen and nutrients. This aids in the healing process and decreasing pain. Cardio revs up the metabolism and burns calories for weight loss all over the body. Start with gentle exercise that won't aggravate your back, such as walking around your neighborhood at a moderate pace or swimming, if you have access to a pool. Cycling also increases the heart rate but is non-impact which decreases any forces transmitted to the spine that typically occur during high impact activities such as running. If you have a push-bike, take advantage of getting outdoors for an cycle around the block a couple of times. Do cardio five times per week for 30 to 45 minute sessions to increase caloric burn for weight loss. You can also do some light aerobics in your house to increase the heart rate; avoid any high-impact jumping or bounding activities opting instead for step-ups, marching in place and side-steps.
Plank It Up
Core strengthening exercises will not only tone up your tummy muscles but can also help to relieve back pain from the comfort of your own floor. Strong abs help support the back during any lifting or bending activities as well as walking or jogging. The plank exercise will strengthen the abs as well as your shoulders, chest and even make you sweat if you hold it long enough or add some lifting arm movements. Try the plank by lying on your belly on the floor. Push yourself up so that you're resting on your toes and forearms with elbows underneath your shoulders. Tighten your tummy and maintain a straight body from head to toe. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and progress to one-minute holds. Repeat three times. Turn the plank into a dynamic exercise to increase the heart rate and burn more calories by adding in movements such as a push-up plank in which you start in a forearm plank position, then push yourself up into a full push-up position, lower into forearm plank and repeat 10 to 12 times or until fatigued.
Yoga is an at-home exercise that can help ease low back pain and assist in weight loss as part of an overall fitness regimen. A 2011 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that yoga was effective in decreasing low back pain symptoms. To lose weight, you will need to do yoga poses that both stretch and strengthen the body and incorporate a flow to get the heart rate up. Yoga can burn anywhere from 102 to 245 calories per hour for a gentle, stretching class and power class respectively, according to Health and Fitness Journalist Peta Bee. Calorie burn will increase with the intensity of the yoga session. Add more heart-raising vinyasa flows in between static poses to burn more calories, but keep the pace slow and monitor how your back feels. Downward dog and reclined spinal twist will stretch out the back while upward facing dog and cobra act to strengthen the extensor muscles.
The type of exercise you can do with back pain is highly dependent on the specific injury. A muscle strain is generally treated differently and has a quicker recovery time than a herniated disc. Avoid doing any exercises that cause pain or further aggravation. Start exercising when pain is reduced, and you are able to walk short distances and do normal daily activities. Your physical therapist will be able to develop a structured home exercise program for you.