The Best 8 Stretches to Beat Back Pain
By RYAN KRANE
Did you know that 80 percent of the population suffers from lower-back pain? It also happens to be the second most popular reason to visit the doctor -- right behind the common cold. Back pain can range from a dull ache to something more severe, such as a herniated and/or bulging disc or sciatica.
Poor posture and extended periods of sitting put additional stress on your lower back. Make sure you're sitting properly with feet firmly on the ground, the feet and knees facing straight ahead and knees at a 90-degree angle. Your elbows should rest comfortably on the armrest and your head and eyes should face forward. Don't forget to get up at least once an hour to stretch your legs to take pressure off your lower back.
Other ways you can hurt your lower back is by bending and twisting the wrong way. Your body is meant to bend and twist, but when it's done in a fast or jerky movement you can irritate or injure your back muscles. The most effective strategy for preventing lower-back pain is to perform a healthy mix of core-strengthening exercises, back stretches and lower-body flexibility exercises.
Check out these eight core-strengthening and stretching tips. Remember to use correct technique, proper postural alignment and always listen to your body.
1. Side Plank: Lie down on your side in a straight line with your right elbow firmly on the ground. Raise upward with your left arm facing the sky. Perform one or two sets for 20 to 30 seconds on each side.
2. Plank With Abduction: Get on the ground in the plank position. Move one leg away from and to the side of the body and back to the starting position without letting your foot touch the ground. Perform one or two sets for 10 to 12 reps on each leg.
3. Bridge With Knee Squeeze: Lie down on your back with knees bent. Place a soft ball between your knees. Raise your hips up into a bridge, squeezing the ball, and hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Keep your feet and knees facing straight. Perform one or two sets.
4. Single-Leg Bridge: Lie on your back with your right leg extended to the height of the left bent knee. Raise your hips up, then return to the starting position. Perform one or two sets for 10 to 12 reps on each side.
5. Glute Stretch: Lie on your back with knees bent. Cross the left leg over the right knee, so that your left ankle is resting on your right knee. Your legs should form a “4″ shape. Reach your left arm between your legs and your right arm around the outside of your right left and lace your hands around the front of your right knee or behind the thigh. Pull your right leg off the ground toward your chest and hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Perform two to three sets on each side. (Watch me demonstrate the move here.)
6. Hip Flexor Stretch: Lie on your back and bend your left knee toward your chest. Keep your right leg straight and flat on the ground. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds on each side. Perform two to three sets.
7. Knees Toward Chest: Lie on your back and pull both knees toward the chest. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds. Perform two to three sets.
8. Piriformis Stretch: Lie on your back and cross the right leg over the left knee and place a tennis ball underneath your right bottom. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides. Perform two to three sets.
But the most effective way to fight lower-back pain is to sit with good posture, performing a strengthening and stretching routine for the core and listening to your body. If you are experiencing any soreness, stiffness and/or pain, take a few days off to recover. If your problem persists for more than a few days, seek medical attention.
Readers -- Do you suffer from persistent back pain? What kinds of exercises help relieve it? Have you tried any of the stretches mentioned above? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Ryan Krane is a fitness entrepreneur specializing in corrective exercise. He's the creator of The Krane Training Method™ and the founder of the Get My Body Better online series. His exercise programs help people eliminate their pain through exercise and build a rock-solid foundation inside their bodies so they won't crack and can continue living their lives to the fullest. His passion in life is to help chronic pain sufferers address and eliminate recurring body aches through expert-designed flexibility, posture and strength training.
The Krane Training Method™ is custom-tailored to fit clients' needs and lifestyles, making it to one of the most accommodating corrective exercise programs available to relieve pain and improve quality of life. Ryan has a master's degree in exercise science with a concentration in rehabilitation sciences. He's also been featured on ABC, NBC News Radio, Prevention, Women's Health and Yahoo.com.
Clark and Lucett 2011. NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2011.