Chronic low back pain can be very debilitating. It doesnt have to be! Try these 10 simple exercises to relieve stress on your joints by stretching and strengthening the core players.
1 Deep Breathing
Place one hand on your belly, and one under your lower back. You want to keep a ‘natural curve’ under your spine (just enough space for your hand). Now breathe deeply into your belly. As you inhale, feel how your belly button rises up against your hand. As you exhale, your belly button sinks back down to the spine.
2a Deep Core Muscle Engagement
On your next exhalation, gently contract your pelvic floor muscles: Basically the feeling as if you have to pee, but want to hold it in. For men, you can also imagine walking into the cold ocean/lake, and sucking up your ‘balls’. Keep that contraction, and gently pull in your navel towards your spine, with a scooping motion. As if you wanted to zip up a too tight pair of jeans. Keep your butt relaxed, your rib cage relaxed, and breathing!
Now, if you want to get into the nitty gritty of how to do it properly, read on to Step 2b. If step 2a is technical enough for you already, head to step 3, and maybe dare giving step 2b a try another time.
2b Breathing during Core Training
So, now where do you breathe, if you are meant to hold this contraction? Obviously we don’t want you to breathe into your chest, as that only creates a stress response in the body, and allows for only minor oxygen flow. The belly is contracted though.. so where to breathe? Into the sides of your rib cage! Imagine you want to extend your ribs down into the ground, and expand your rib cage towards your back, while inhaling. Then, during exhalation, let go, back of your ribs pull back in towards your midline. Please make sure to keep your front rib cage relaxed at all times. No lifting of the chest!
3 Roll Up
Press your feet into the ground to relieve your hip flexors. Then tuck the chin in and roll your head and shoulders up, until your shoulderblades are just off the ground. Keep the navel pulled down, pelvic floor engaged, and rib cage in (don’t allow your ribs to flare up). Hold for 7 seconds, then lower. Repeat 3x.
Roll your butt up into a bridge pose. Make sure you press your heels into the ground and slightly away from you, keep the knees in line with your ankles (don’t let them drop out!), relax your butt, and gently engage your core. Hold for 5-15 seconds.
5 Prone Superman
Lie on your belly, gently draw the navel up towards your spine, then lift legs and arms off the ground. Keep your butt relaxed, shoulders relaxed, and rib cage drawn in. Keep breathing, and creating space in your lower back, while working the muscles there. Hold for 5-15 seconds.
Lying on your side, bend the knees until the heels are behind the line of the body. (So that you can see your heels behind your butt when looking down). This is modified to the clam you might know from previous Pilates Classes, but makes sure to activate your glutes and external rotators to relieve your low back. Pressing the heels together, lift the top knee, then lower. Repeat 15-30x, change side.
7 Cow Face Low Back Relief
Step 1: Stack one knee on top of the other, toes pointing sideways. If your hips or knees don’t allow this pose, only bend one leg to start with, and keep the other one stretched out in front. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then change sides.
Step 2: If your low back pain is more on the left, do Step 1 with right leg on top. Then reach the left arm over your head towards the right, opening the left side of your waist. Breathe into that area, feel how you let go of any tension and soreness in there. If it is your right lower back that is sorer, do it opposite. If your low back pain is more central or as intense on both sides, than repeat both sides.
8 Hip Opening Iliposoas Stretch
Take left foot in front, lower the right knee and drop the hips gently down to release into your right hip flexor. Be sure to be gentle here, as it can easily cramp up. Lift the right arm and lean slightly to the left, to deepen the opening. If you feel like you can go even further without it cramping, grab your back foot to get your thighs at the same time. Breathe into it for at least 15 seconds, better longer. Then change side.
9 Spinal Twist & Nerve Stretch
This total body twist is a great way to lengthen your ITB, your lower back, chest, and stretch the whole nervous system. If the straight leg version is too much, try bending the top knee and pull down on the knee towards the ground. Breathe and relax. Hold for at least 15 seconds, preferably longer. Visualize any tension and pain dispersing.
10 Trigger Roller
Relief yourself of tight areas, trigger points and myofascial adhesions in your Iliotibial Band (ITB), Hip Flexors, Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) and Glutes by rolling on your Trigger Roller, Foam Roller or Massage Ball. To do so, don’t actually roll on it frantically, but roll until you find a sore spot, then STAY on that spot for a few breaths, at least 10 seconds, until you feel the tightness release. Then go onto the next sore area! It is really important to stay on the certain areas for a little while each. Just rolling up and down will often simply aggravate knots and triggerpoints instead of releasing them, and can make things worse. It might hurt in the first while, but it should get better very soon! Stay with it!
Try doing these exercises daily. They only take 10 minutes, so can be incorporated into any daily routine! They are a great way to start the day, and a relaxing and conscious way to wind down in the evening.
A good way is also to do the strengthening throughout the day, and the add in the stretching part whenever you get the chance, maybe even several times daily in the beginning.
You should start an improvement very soon. If not, please don’t hesitate to send me a message to discuss your individual case. Sometimes there is a different area of the body that is involved, or even the main culprit, which has to be fixed first in order for your back pain to be able to let go.
What has helped you to get rid of your low back pain? Comment below to share your experience! xx
Pictures: Britta Meyer Photography in Byron Bay & Mike Xavier in Verbier