Back Pain

Exercises You Can Do at Home – For Patients with Back Pain

It is not unusual for patients with low back pain to decrease their activity in an attempt to reduce pain. Unfortunately, their core muscles–the muscles that help stabilise their mid-section – are likely to become deconditioned due to inactivity over time, which can only raise the likelihood of further injury. Therefore, if one’s low back pain status is to be improved effectively, he or she must first develop and maintain good core muscles! Think for ease of implementation in one to three sets of ten reps, and always release the exercise slowly — don’t just drop back from the exercise’s end range.

The abdominal muscles contain four groups: the rectus abdominis (they attach our rib cage to our pelvic region and the fibres run straight up and down), the internal obliques (the fibres run down and out), the external obliques (the fibres run out and out) and the transverse abdominis (the fibres run horizontally and connect themselves to the fascia in the lower back).

If we think of three levels of difficulty with exercise, a simple (or level 1) sit-up can involve a “crunch” or simply raise the head and shoulders off the floor. A more difficult exercise (Level 2) might be to bend the knees and hips at 90 degree angles when performing a sit-up, whereas a more difficult exercise (Level 3) ab would be a double straight leg lift during sit-up. The rectus is stimulated by going straight up and down while the obliques that overlap involve a twist to the trunk. You should use an “abdominal brace,” or keep the muscles of the stomach tightly as though anyone might punch you in the stomach, in any place or activity during the day.

A variety of useful exercises, including (but not limited to) the “bird-dog” (kneeling on “all-fours”) straightening the opposite arm and leg separately (level 1) and then flipping back and forth (level 2) can be used to strengthen the low back extender muscles. Level 3 may be longer holding times, drawing with hand and foot a line, or rising repetitions.

Another low back reinforcer is called the “Superman,” which involves an initial raising of one arm on the stomach (pronounced) and then the opposite leg separately (Level I); then opposite limbs at the same time (Level 2); and eventually raising all arms and legs simultaneously (Level 3). It can be made more comfortable by placing a roll under the pelvis / abdomen.

You may use a side bridge or plank to support the sides of the core, or lateral trunk stabilisers (laying between the elbow and feet on the foot, with the hips up and off the floor). Level 1 might be a six-second hold from the knees, level 2 might be a six-second hold from the feet, and level 3 could be a twelve-second hold from the elbow / forearm and the foot. A change may involve gradual repetitions of lowering the pelvis to and back up to the floor. Only switch it up!

Many more exercises are available, but these will keep you going for a while! Note, remain within the “acceptable limits of pain” that you establish, release slowly any exercise and, most importantly, have fun!

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