One of the best ways to avoid back pain is to work on the muscles in your core while at the same time working on flexibility in your hips. Below is a series of exercises to help you strengthen the muscles in the core and the back while improving flexibility.

Stretch first

Lie on your stomach. Bend your right knee, sending your foot towards your rear. Reach around with your right hand to grab your right foot, or use a strap to pull the foot closer to your rear. Hold this stretch for one minute, breathing into it to relax. Repeat on the opposite side.

Sit tall with your legs straight out in front of you. Take a deep breath in, then stretch forward, hinging from the hips (don’t round your lower back too much). Use a strap around your feet to gently pull yourself closer to your knees with each inhalation. Hold for one minute, then repeat for one more minute.

Take a low runner’s lunge with one foot in front and the other stretched behind you with the toes turned under and the knee touching the floor. Bend your front knee, keeping the knee over the ankle, and try to get your thigh level with the floor. Hold for one minute, switch sides, then repeat again on each side.

Core work

Lie on your back, knees bent. Bring one knee at a time slowly into your chest. Try to initiate the movement from your core by drawing your belly in and keeping your low back stable. Repeat slowly three times for each knee.

Still on your back, draw both knees to your chest. Again, use your core muscles to initiate the movement. You may place your hands under your hips for more stability in your lower back. Repeat five times.

Last exercise on the back: bend knees. Tighten your abdominal muscles and, with control, slowly lower your knees to either side. Try to keep your core muscles engaged and your shoulders on the floor. Repeat five times on each side.

Core and back work

On your stomach, stretch your arms forward. Breathe in and engage your core. Tuck your tailbone under. With your exhalation, lift the left arm and the right leg. Hold for five seconds. Lower slowly. Repeat with the right arm and left leg. Repeat five times for both sides.

Plank pose: Lay on your stomach. Place hands palms down next to your chest; the thumbs should be even with your heart. Take a deep breath in, activating your core and tucking your tailbone under. Curl toes under and slowly push your body up (you can push to your knees first, then lift up). Your back should be straight, belly button pulled in. You should be in the starting position for a push up. Hold for 30 seconds. Lower down, maintaining a strong core, then repeat. Gradually increase the time of the hold.

For a more complete set of exercises, visit PrincetonUniversity’s site for lumbar/core strength and stability.

How can you incorporate these exercises into your routine to help with back pain?

Image by Bruce via Flickr

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