maintenance & low back pain exercises & stretches

There aren’t many of us who haven’t suffered lower back pain at some point in our lives and it can be extremely debilitating and frustrating. The back is a complex and delicate structure and, if we are not mindful of our posture, the way we move or our lifestyle, it is easy to disrupt the wonderful mechanics of our bodies.

According to Health Executive figures (2005/2006) 3.7 million working days a year are lost through episodes of back pain. More than £1 billion of public money is spent by the health service each year on costs relating to back pain, with a further £565 million spent within the private sector (Maniadakis and Gray, 2000). Yet most cases of back pain are non-specific, which means there is no underlying cause such as an accident, sciatica, or a herniated disc etc. etc.

There are some simple back exercises and stretches you can do at home to help ease lower back pain and use as a back maintenance daily programme.  Your pain should ease within 2 weeks and will usually pass in about 4 – 6 weeks.  Please see your GP if your pain doesn’t improve within a few weeks or you experience severe pain whilst trying the exercises.

 Please go carefully into position for each one and SLOWLY work into and through the movement, slowing down where tightness or discomfort is felt.  As the muscles stretch you will be able to develop the range of movement.

Carefully go onto all fours for –

The Cat – opens up the spine, stretching the muscles that support it. Repeat 5 – 8 times.

With your wrists below your shoulders, your knees below your hips and your feet lined up with your knees, hip width apart, gently tighten your tummy muscles without pulling them in. SLOWLY push up through your arms, arching your back up to the ceiling, at the same time bring the head down to look at your knees so your spine is curved. Hold this position and count down slowly from 3, then slowly return to your start position and repeat. Staying on all fours do the following –

Hips to Heels Stretch – stretches the lower back, the hips and opens up the lumbar spine. Hold stretch for 30 – 60 seconds.

Drop back from all fours and bring your hips as close to your heels as you possibly can, leaving your hands on the floor in front of you. Just hold it here and let those muscles stretch. You can repeat this stretch again after the repeat of the Knees to Chest stretch at the end of these exercises. Now go on to your tummy for –

Gentle Neck and Back Extension – tightens neck and back muscles, stretches tummy muscles. Repeat 5 – 8 times.

Lying as shown, drop heels out to the side and put your forehead on your hands. Relax your back and your shoulders. With your tummy tightened, slowly lift your chest away from the floor without bringing your chin up. A very small movement to start with, then gradually increase range.

 Now turn onto your back, if you are in pain, roll onto your side, take one arm above your head and bend both knees up, then use your arms to help you roll onto your back for the –

Knees to Chest Stretch – stretches and flattens lower back, opens up lumbar spine, stretches the hips. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds.

Lying on your back, gently bring your knees into your chest and put your hands underneath the knees and your head on the floor, not as shown. You can repeat this stretch again after the Hip Rolls below. Go into position for the –

Pelvic Tilts – flattens and hollows the back, stretching and tightening. Repeat 5 – 8 times.

Lie with your arms down by your side and gently tighten your tummy muscles. Slowly and carefully flatten your back by pushing your pubic bone up to the ceiling and then slowly hollow your back by bringing the pubic bone right the way down and pushing the bottom of your sacrum (flat bit at bottom of spine) into the floor.

Hip Rolls – stretches and tightens stabilising muscles at the side of the body. Repeat 10 – 16 alternating sides.

Lying on your back with your knees bent and your arms out to the side of the body, not as shown, with the palms up. Tighten your tummy and slowly and gently take your knees to one side and your head to the other, not as shown. Hold here and count down from 3 slowly, then gently return to start and repeat to the other side.

Now repeat Knees to Chest stretch as above, then turn carefully onto all fours and repeat Hips to Heels stretch as above. Come up to standing using your legs and arms to help you.

Information from NHS, Health Executive and Future Fit Training