At Home Stretches & Exercises to Help Relieve Back Pain
Back pain can be debilitating. It is not something you want to experience when fulfilling work duties, playing with grandkids, or doing the things you love.
People with back pain are often on the search for easily accessible at-home remedies to relieve pain. If you are suffering from back pain and looking for relief, we have stretches and exercises that will help.
At-Home Exercise Can Relieve Back Pain
Many people incorrectly assume that medication, rest, and immobilization are the only solutions for back pain. While rest and immobilization certainly have a time and place, too much inactivity can increase back pain!
One of the best ways to relieve back pain is through physical activity.
Here we will focus on three key components of physical activity: cardiovascular exercise, strengthening, and stretching. Importantly, these exercise recommendations are easily accessible and can be performed at home.
Prior to starting an at-home program, be sure to consult with your doctor and physical therapist. Importantly, these exercises should complement the comprehensive treatment program provided by your healthcare providers. These exercises should also complement the use of your back brace for pain relief.
Cardiovascular exercise (also known as “cardio” or aerobic exercise) is movement that increases heart rate.
Cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, including to the muscles and tissues around the spine. The increased blood flow induced by cardio can relieve back pain and stiffness.
For adults aged 65+, the U.S. Department of Health recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise. If 150 minutes is not possible, some exercise is better than no exercise.
If you are experiencing back pain, seek low-impact cardiovascular activities. These include walking, biking, and swimming. Swimming has the least impact. And walking is one of the most accessible at-home activities.
Core strengthening is another way to reduce back pain, especially low back pain. The core consists of deep musculature that surrounds your midsection. When the core muscles are strong and stable, they are better able to support your spine. When the spine is supported, it is less likely to sustain an injury.
Core strengthening should supplement cardiovascular exercise. Recommendations for strengthening exercises for adults 65 years or older include strengthening all major muscle groups, including the core, at least two days per week.
The following at-home core strengthening exercises can help reduce back pain:
- Pelvic tilts - Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly. Hold for up to 10 seconds. Repeat
- Knees-to-chest - Bring one knee to your chest, keeping the other foot flat on the floor (or the other leg straight, whichever feels better on your lower back). Keep your lower back pressed to the floor. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Relax and lower the knee to the starting position.
- Glute bridges - Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
- Supermans - Lying on your stomach, extend your hands in front of your head. Keeping your head in a neutral position, looking toward the floor, lift your arms, and legs up toward the ceiling. Feel as if you're reaching far away from your body with your hands and feet. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat 10 times.
- Planks - Begin face down with your forearms and toes on the floor. Your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your forearms are facing forward. Engage your abdominal muscles, drawing your navel toward your spine. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Release to floor.
The goal of stretching is to elongate the tissues and promote healthy mobility and flexibility. This is especially important for the back and spine.
Stretching should be performed in all directions of the spine: flexion and extension (bending forward and backward), side-bending, and rotation. It is best to stretch when your back muscles are already warm, ideally after your cardiovascular exercise.
Stretches for back pain relief at home include:
- Holding knees-to-chest - Gently pull one knee up to your chest until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Bring the knee as close to your chest as comfortably possible. Keep the opposite leg relaxed in a comfortable position, either with your knee bent or with your leg extended. Hold for about 30 seconds.
- Cat-cow yoga poses - Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Begin by moving into Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, and gaze up toward the ceiling. Next, move into Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back.
- Rotation side to side - Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Don’t press your neck or lower back to the floor. Breathe deeply. You should feel comfortable and relaxed in this position. Drop both knees to one side. Turn your head to the opposite side. Keep your shoulders flat on the floor. Hold for 20 seconds then slowly switch sides.
- Child’s pose - kneel and sit on your knees. Lean forward, keeping your buttocks on your heels, and rest your forehead on the floor. Move your arms so they're next to your legs, palms facing up. Inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply, for at least eight breaths.
If stretching on the floor is not possible, consider stretching in a chair. Check out chair yoga! It uses all kinds of modifications for your at-home stretches.
Tips for Your At-Home Exercise Program
The key to a successful at-home exercise program is to establish a simple routine that works for you. Find exercises that feel good and bring you joy. The benefits from these exercises may take time, so be consistent and patient with your program.
Elite Medical Supply provides back braces that complement your at-home exercise program. Contact us to discover which back braces work best for you.
Written by Dr. Jenny Hunnicutt
Dr. Jenny Hunnicutt is a licensed athletic trainer with a PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science. As the owner of Hunnicutt Writing and Consulting, LLC, she collaborates with global institutions, spearheading innovation and research among professionals and businesses in Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. Learn more at https://drhunnicutt.com.
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