If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from low back pain you know how much it can disrupt your daily routine. Simple things most take for granted, like going for a walk, sitting at a desk or even laughing can become almost impossible to do without triggering serious pain.
In fact, it’s such a pain that people are willing to shell out serious cash for a remedy. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) the financial cost of low back pain is “at least $50 billion a year” nationally.
Maybe even more eye-opening are the stats on just how many of us are struggling with back pain. According to Mayo Clinic, back pain is one of the most common reasons people miss work or go to the doctor, and is one of the leading causes of disability. Most people also have an episode of back pain more than once.
Exercise is an important tool in helping to relieve the pain. But back pain sufferers have to approach exercise carefully. One type of exercise that physical therapists and back specialists recommend most often for low back pain is stretching. As always, speak with your doctor before attempting any exercise program.
Stretches offer a number of benefits for people who suffer from low back pain. These include:
Reducing the tension in the muscles that support the spine. When people are in pain, they tend to tense their muscles up. This makes things even worse, but it's an almost involuntary habit that's hard to break. Regular stretching can help.
Improving range of motion. Stretches for the lower back help improve your range of motion and mobility. Although you may not want to move when you are in pain, it's a must, and stretches are a gentler, but still effective, way to do that.
Keeping your spine healthy. According to The American Council on Exercise, regular stretching can help relieve stress on the spine and reduces your risk of low-back pain.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and both of your feet flat on the floor. Place both of your hands behind one of your knees and slowly pull it towards your chest. You'll be helping to relieve tension in your back while also stretching the piriformis and glute muscles. Switch sides.
Get on the floor on your knees. Move one of your legs forward so that your foot is flat on the ground and your weight is evenly distributed through both hips. In other words, make sure you don't favor one side. Place both of your hands on the top of your thigh and slowly lean forward. You should feel the muscles at the front of your opposite leg begin to stretch. This move helps loosen your hip flexor muscles, which is important since if they are too tight, they will heighten back pain. Switch sides.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your heels touching the floor. Cross one of your legs over the other and rest your ankle on your bent knee. Gently pull your bottom knee up to your chest until you feel the muscles in your butt stretch. Switch sides.
Suffering at work? This stretch can be performed right at your desk, giving you some immediate relief. Sit on the edge of your chair with your arms and hands at your side. Straighten one of your legs out in front of you while keeping your heel on the floor. Sit up straight and try to pull your navel towards your thigh without moving forward. Hold that position for thirty seconds, relax for a moment and then repeat on the other side.
Stephanie Mansour is a health and fitness expert and weight-loss coach for women. She is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and Pilates instructor, and host of “Step It Up with Steph” on American Public Television.