Nearly two-thirds of Americans experience low back pain in their lives according to the American Physical Therapy Association. Low back pain can be extremely debilitating and often cause people to miss work, school, and even family fun. Sitting has become a large part of modern American life. Whether you’re a desk jockey, couch potato, or simply spend a lot of time behind the wheel, the human body wasn’t designed to sit for long periods of time.
As a result, our hamstrings become extremely tight and force the lumbar spine into a forward bent posture, placing a lot of stress on the low back. What many people don’t realize is that they can prevent and/or manage the pain by adding five simple strategies into their everyday lives.
Get Up Stand Up
Sitting is part of the problem, so it’s no surprise standing up can help. Set an alarm on your phone for every half hour or so. When the alarm goes off, get up and walk around for a few minutes.
The supine hamstring stretch is a great way to loosen these muscles before you start your day.
- Lay on your back
- Bend your right knee into your chest and place a rolled up towel around the ball of your foot
- Straighten your leg toward the ceiling and hold for 30 seconds
- Switch to the left leg and repeat for both.
Do the Twist
The lying knee twist is a great way to stretch the paraspinal muscles and give temporary relief to the lumbar.
- Lay on your back
- Bend your knees into your chest
- Bring your arms out to a T
- Exhale and lower your knees to the ground on one side
- Keep both shoulders pressing down firmly against the floor
- Hold for 30-60 seconds on each side and repeat twice
Make like a Cat and Camel
The cat and camel exercise is an effective way to mobilize the back, reduce stiffness and increase flexibility in your trunk without irritating the neck. When performed daily, this exercise can also improve posture, decrease back pain, and prevent injury.
- Get on your hands and knees
- Place knees hip-width apart
- Place hands directly beneath shoulders
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and arch your spine towards the ceiling
- Hold the position for 10 seconds and then slowly relax your back
- Allow your stomach to fall to the floor
- Bring your shoulders together and stretch your back downward into a swayback position
- Repeat 3 times
Plank that six-pack
When the abdominal muscles come to mind, most people think about that six-pack you see on the cover of magazines. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, they play a big role in supporting the spine, and that is why the 8 point plank should be added to your everyday routine.
- Lie on your stomach with feet flexed knees touching, and elbows a few inches in front of your shoulders
- Pull your shoulders away from your ears
- Gently squeeze the knees and elbows to the centerline of the body
- Press knees, toes, and elbows into mat as you lift your hips up to the height of your shoulders
- Tighten your core and maintain a long neutral spine
- Pull your elbows and knees towards each other and hold for 30 seconds
- Repeat 3 times
It’s that simple! All you have to do is add a few stretches and exercises to your day and remember to get up and move around. Your low back will thank you in the long run.
Mike Spillman is a lifelong fitness enthusiast who works with all levels of clients at La Jolla’s Finest Training in California. He is a Certified Fitness Specialist through Mesa College and a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Exercise Specialist through American Council on Exercise. Mike is an avid runner, he has competed in (1) ultra-marathon, (4) marathons, (15) half-marathons, (1) 25K and dozens of 5 & 10K’s.