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Exercises to relieve lower back pain

When I was first diagnosed with back conditions like a herniated and bulging disc and spinal canal narrowing, many questions came to mind. Am I ever going to get rid of the numbness and tingling feeling? Am I ever going to be able to walk my dogs around the block without a shooting pain from my hip that travels all the way down to my toes? How am I going to live an active lifestyle? Lots of questions. And to be honest with you, I was scared.

My surgeon prescribed physical therapy for one month to see if it would help with my symptoms. My physical therapist’s initial assessment showed weakness throughout my left leg. When he pushed my big toe — even with his pinky finger — I couldn’t push back. The condition of my spine had caused the signals from my nervous system going through that leg to weaken. We started working on strength training of my core and also some stretches.

Why are exercises important for low back pain?

  • They may relieve the pain.
  • They can help speed your recovery.
  • They can prevent injuries that cause back pain.
  • Stronger core muscles support your spine better. This helps prevent disc injury.

My sessions took 45 to 60 minutes, and would end with 20 more minutes in the traction device. My therapist also recommended that I stick to just walking as my activity until I got better. He said it would help maintain and even strengthen my muscles.

Exercises that may reduce low back pain:

  • Aerobic exercise – helps condition your heart and muscles to help you maintain health and speed recovery
  • Strength exercise – targets your abdominal, back, and leg muscles
  • Stretching – keeps your muscles flexible and prevents injury

Exercises that may increase low back pain:

  • Straight leg sit-ups
  • Bent leg sit-ups
  • Leg lifts
  • Weight-lifting exercises above the waist
  • Toe touches in the standing position

Those were the longest two months of my life — but they were worth it. The exercises and stretches I performed daily improved my symptoms. A few months later I was back to doing races, and actually won third place in my age group in a 10k trail race.

I continue to do these stretches and exercises now that I’m better. I believe they help me live an active and healthy lifestyle. They also help me get through a full day of work with little to no pain.

Some of these exercises might be beneficial for you. But also remember: Depending on what’s happening in your back, some exercises could give you more pain. Make sure you only do exercises that do not increase your symptoms. If you are having back pain, it’s a good idea to consult your doctor or a physical therapist.

Sample workout routine:

  1. Pelvic tilt  (hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 to 12 times)
  2. Bridges  (10 to 12 times)
  3. Hip kick-backs with opposite arm from the leg extending at the same time  (10 to 12 times on each side)
  4. Knee-to-chest exercise (hold for five to 10 seconds and repeat five times on each leg)
  5. Hamstring stretch on the floor (hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat five times on each leg)
  6. Hip flexor stretch (hold for 30 seconds and repeat five times on each leg)