Isometric exercises for back pain can strengthen the muscles around your spine and improve your symptoms. You may combine them with other rehab exercises or do them on their own to get rid of pain and prevent further injuries.
Dealing With Lower Back Pain
The lower back is prone to injury. Up to 80 percent of people might develop lower back pain at some point in life, according to the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke. It's the most common job-related disability and one of the leading causes for taking sick days.
There are many different types of back pain and different injuries can occur. Common injuries include herniated or slipped discs and fractures of the vertebra in the spine. Most back pain should go away in a few days or weeks, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
If your back pain doesn't subside, you shouldn't just sit around and rest. In fact, staying in bed can make your problem worse. Instead, try to keep active and use lower back exercises to get back in shape.
Most exercises involve a concentric contraction, where you lift something, and an eccentric contraction, where the muscle lengthens. According to the University of California, San Diego, there's a third type of contraction known as an isometric. With this type of contraction, the muscle is activated but stays at a constant length.
Read more: What Are the Benefits of Isometric Exercise?
Isometric Exercises for Back Pain
Using isometric exercises for back pain appears to be effective. You can use these movements to accelerate your recovery from a lower back injury, according to a July 2018 study published in the Medical-Surgical Nursing Journal. Subjects who did isometric back exercises reported less pain and got back to daily life more quickly.
A small study published in Pain Medicine in May 2017 has found that isometric lower back exercises were effective for reducing pain in women, but not in men. Consider trying the following movements to strengthen the muscles in the lumber and core area:
Move 1: Side Plank
According to a small study published in Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science in March 2016, side planks activate the erector spinae, one of the major back muscles, and build core strength. Here's how to perform this movement:
- Lie on your side with your elbow underneath you.
- Stack your legs on top of each other.
- Lift your hips so that only your elbow, forearm and bottom foot are touching the ground.
- Maintain a straight line from your head to your ankles. Hold for as long as possible; then switch sides.
- Do three sets per side, holding the position for as long as possible each time.
Your lower back needs to flex, extend, rotate and bend side-to-side. The side plank is an isometric exercise that works your abs and lower back muscles from the side. You can use this isometric movement for back pain relief or prevention.
Move 2: Half-Kneeling Pallof Press
Your spine rotates, which you can see in sports like tennis or golf, where athletes need to twist. The pallof press is an exercise in resisting that rotation. While a resistance band tries to pull you into rotation, you have to fight against it by using your abdominal and lower back muscles. The American Council on Exercise explains how to do it:
- Fix a resistance band or cable machine to shoulder height.
- Grab the band in both hands, step out and face to the right.
- Kneel on your right knee. Plant your left foot in front.
- Press the band out in front of you until your elbows are straight.
- Hold this position until you're tired; then switch sides.
- Perform three sets of 10 reps on each side.
Move 3: Superman
- Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you and your legs straight.
- Lift your arms and legs off the floor, as though you're flying.
- Hold this position for five seconds; then relax.
- Repeat 10 times; then rest. Perform three sets.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Got Back Pain? Try Doing ‘Superman’ and 3 More Exercises"
- American Council on Exercise: "Improve Your Posture With These Isometric Exercises"
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: "Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises"
- Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science: "Comparison of Three Different Surface Plank Exercises on Core Muscle Activity"
- Pain Medicine: "Isometric Back Exercise Has Different Effect on Pressure Pain Thresholds in Healthy Men and Women "
- Medical-Surgical Nursing Journal: "The Effect of Isometric Exercise on Pain Severity and Muscle Strength of Patients with Lower Limb Fractures: A Randomized Clinical Trial Study"
- University of California, San Diego: "Muscle Physiology"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Back Pain"
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Low Back Pain Fact Sheet"