You don't realize how much you use your lower back until you injure it. And then even the most simple movements, like standing up, become a challenge. The pain from such an injury makes your bed seem rather inviting. It's tempting to want to lie down all day. However, if you want to get back to normal, you'll have to start moving again.
After your injury and when you've been cleared by your doctor, it's important to start doing rehabilitation exercises. But before you even start the back exercises, ACE Fitness suggests a simple breathing exercise that prevents you from holding stress in your lower back. When you feel yourself tensing up, stop and inhale and exhale deeply three times.
Read more: Stretches for the Lower & Middle Back
What to Avoid
The most important thing to remember when you start doing exercises is to avoid anything that hurts your lower back. Your injury needs a chance to heal, and moving your spine in the wrong direction can injure it even more. There are three basic ways that your spine can move: forward and backward, side to side and rotational. Your lower back rehab should include only the motions that don't hurt.
Frequency of Exercise
Because they are relatively low in intensity, the Athletic Medicine division of Princeton recommends a flexibility and strengthening routine for your lower back performed five days a week and three to four days a week, respectively.
Extend Your Lower Back
A 2013 study published in Spine shows that this exercise, performed with a large or small range of motion, will help reduce your lower back pain and decrease the amount of disability caused by your injury. Yoga Journal reveals that back extension or Locust pose is contraindicated for people with a serious back injury but is recommended as a therapeutic application for general lower back pain.
How to: Lie completely flat on the floor, stomach side down, and lift your head and shoulders off the mat using your lower back muscles. Your arms should be by your sides the entire time, not helping you lift yourself up.
Read more: Back Hyperextensions
Wag Your Tail
During this exercise, you'll practice bending your spine side to side from the very supported and safe quadruped position.
How to: Get on the floor on your hands and knees. Your entire spine should be flat and straight. Then bring your right shoulder toward your right hip, focusing on bending your spine to the side while keeping it parallel to the ground. Repeat on the left.
Stretches for Lower Back Pain
You'll typically find this exercise in yoga classes as a safe way to stretch the spine.
How to: Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Breathe out and round your spine as much as possible. Then breathe in and arch your back as much as possible.
Bend Over Backwards
Your abs need to contribute in this exercise to stop your back from bending too far.
How to: Stand tall with your arms straight up over your head. Bend backward with your upper body, reaching backward with your arms. Go back as far as is comfortable; then return to standing straight.
Reach to the Side
This exercise challenges your obliques to protect your spine from bending too far.
How to: Raise one arm up over your head. Bend it over your head, reaching across to the other side of your body. Bend as far as is comfortable; then return to standing.
- University Health Services Berkeley: Low Back Pain
- ACE Fitness: Core-Strengthening Exercises That Help With Back Injury Rehab
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: Lumbar/Core Strength and Stability Exercises
- Yoga Journal: Locust Pose
- Spine: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Limited Range of Motion Lumbar Extension Exercise in Chronic Low Back Pain