The Ultimate Exercise Sequence To Eliminate Lower Back Pain
Unfortunately, many of us are familiar with the perils of lower back pain. Research suggests that at least 80% of working-age people will encounter non specific lower back pain at least once in their lives. Individuals with a sedentary lifestyle are especially at risk, as continuous pressure on the area and weakened lumbar muscles take their toll.
Not surprisingly, one of the most commonly recommended remedies is exercise. Strengthening the muscles in the lower back stabilizes the waist and reduces the strain on the area. But what type of exercise is best? A new study published in Clinical Biomechanics has the answer.
Researchers took 70 women with low back pain and split them into two groups. One group began a lumbar stabilization exercise program, and the other did a lumbar muscle strengthening program. Both programs lasted 20 weeks, and required two 45 minute sessions each week.
To stabilize or to strengthen? That is the question.
Ultimately, both programs reduced lower back pain, but the stabilization exercises were significantly more effective. Plus, the positive results lasted for a full 12 weeks after the program ended.
The lumbar stabilization program focused on exercises that would strengthen deep trunk stabilizing muscles, like the abdominals, obliques, and pelvic muscles. After a five minute warm up of dynamic and static stretching, participants completed between 8 and 16 repetitions of the following exercises:
- Spine Curl. Commonly referred to as the “bridge pose” in yoga. Lying flat on the floor with the knees bent and feet planted, lift your hips off the ground while keeping the rest of the body in place. The pelvis should curl off the floor, vertebra by vertebra, until you reach full extension, and then roll back down to the neutral position.
- Roll Down. This one is similar to a sit-up, but with the legs and arms fully extended. Lie flat on the floor with your arms extended straight overhead. While tensing the pelvic muscles, roll your body up to a sit up position with a rounded back, keeping the legs straight out in front of you. Then roll back down slowly and return to the starting position.
- Curl Up. Very similar to the roll down, but this exercise is done with the arms at the sides, bringing them with you as you sit up so that they are parallel to the floor. This one can also be done with legs in a frog position (knees bent, gently falling to both sides) rather than fully extended.
- Rolling Like A Ball. Beginning in a seated position, hug shins into the chest and lift your feet slightly off the floor. Hold your body in this ball shape while rocking backwards and landing softly on the shoulder blades, before rocking back up to the starting position. Your head and neck should never touch the floor.
- Hundred. Lying flat on your back, lift both legs off the floor while keeping them straight. Hold legs in the air at whichever height feels comfortable (a 45 degree angle is a good reference point). Then, lift your head, shoulders, and arms off the floor. Pump your arms at your sides 100 times without setting your legs down.
- Cat. The cat is also commonly done in a yoga practice. Start in a tabletop position with knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Send a curling motion through your spine, beginning by rolling the pelvis underneath and rounding your back. You should have a rounded spine (like a cat arching its back) before rolling back to a neutral position.
- Side Balance. Similar to a side plank, except without the strain on the shoulders. Lie on your side and keep your head, neck, and legs in line with your spine. The arm on the floor should be extended above the head, and the arm on top should be held straight up. Once you have proper alignment, point the toes and lift both legs slightly off the mat—to be level with hips. Hold for 10-20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
- Side Band With Rotation. Start in a modified side plank position, with knees on the floor and one arm holding you up. Extend the other arm up into the air and then weave it under your stabilizing arm. Don’t let your torso drop to the floor, and keep your feet together the entire time. Repeat on both sides.
There you have it—the ultimate exercise sequence for reducing lower back pain, according to science.