Back pain makes even the simplest of tasks more difficult. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid exercise, though. There are a few strength and stretching exercises that can actually help ease symptoms. Here are four key exercises you can do to help relieve back pain.
THE EIGHT-POINT PLANK
You’ll definitely want to use a mat for this exercise. Flex your feet, lay flat on your stomach and touch your knees together. Your elbows should be a few inches in front of your shoulders. Slowly pull your shoulders away from your ears and slide your elbows and knees toward your body’s center (knees forward, elbows back). Lift your hips to shoulder height and spress your toes, knees and elbows into your mat. Tighten your core and hold the plank for about 30 seconds.
THE FOUNDER TO FORWARD FOLD
Extending your hips is a major back pain reliever. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, extend your arms above your head as you lean forward – and let your butt stick out, no matter how weird it feels. Drive your hips back and slowly move your hands down to the floor. (If you have tight hamstrings, you’re going to need a chair if you can’t reach the ground from this position.) Put all your weight on your heels and unlock your knees. Pull your hips up and back and hold that position for about 30 seconds. You’ll feel it in your lower back, in a good way – that’s exactly what you want. Slide your hands up your legs and gently move your hips forward again to stand up.
Start this exercise in the lunge position (one knee bent forward, the other back). Shift your weight to your front heel and stand as tall as you can. Lift your back heel off the ground and extend your arms forward. Without moving your front knee, push your butt backward (it’s going to feel weird, it’s fine) until you feel your hamstrings stretching. Tigthen your core and move your arms so that you’re reaching over your head instead of forward. Hold for 30 seconds, switch sides (extend the opposite leg forward) and repeat.
With your heels slightly apart, stand so that your toes are touching. Support all your weight with your heels, and as you unlock your knees, slowly pull your heels together. Reach over your head, touch your fingers together and stand tall. As you inhale, gently lift your ribcage away from your hips. As you exhale, tighten your core. Repeat several times. You should “feel” taller, as this exercise forces you to “straighten out” your spine.
Keep in mind that if you are experiencing back pain, and these exercises make it worse, stop. It’s not worth sustaining an injury for the sake of trying to relieve your pain. If done correctly, these moves can help – but depending on the severity and type of pain, it could also hurt. Be careful. If you need to give your back a rest, it’s OK to take some time off. Do what you can, or stick to exercises that don’t put any unnecessary strain on your back at all.