Back pain is one of the most common complaints of modern day Americans. And it’s no wonder – many of us sit at desks all day (terrible posture), eat junk all the time (leads to inflammation), and/or are out of shape (which causes back problems for a lot of reasons). If you are willing to put in ~10 minutes of effort every day, you can significantly reduce, if not eliminate, your back problems with these 3 simple techniques.
Foam Roll – Foam rolling offers many benefits for your back. It pops your vertebrae back into their proper alignment, relaxes and reduces tension in your muscles, promotes circulation, and more. Rolling out the muscles in front of your body can also help with back problems, since they are often very tight from sitting in a hunched position, which pulls on your back in all sorts of unhealthy ways. Here is an excellent video demonstrating foam rolling exercises for back and neck pain:
Stretch – If you aren’t a very active individual, your back is probably very tight and inflexible. This is a common cause of back pain and alignment issues, so it’s really important to make a conscious effort every day to move your back through it’s full range of motion. Keeping your back mobile and flexible is also a great way to prevent back issues later on, especially if you do physically strenuous work on a regular basis or have a habit of sitting with bad posture. If you search “back stretches” on Pinterest, you will find a TON of great routines to keep your back flexible, mobile, and healthy. Below are 3 of my personal favorite back stretches.
Downward Dog – This one is especially great for relaxing and stretching your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. With lower back problems, those three muscles tend to be really tight, so this stretch is a great way to combat that.
Pigeon Stretch – This one is a great way to lengthen and stretch all the muscles both in your back and connected to your back. It’s important to remember that back tightness often means you have tense muscles somewhere else as well that are contributing to your problems. The Pigeon pose especially targets your hip flexors, glutes, and lower back.
Cat to Cow Pose – This is a very relaxing stretch for your abdominals and your entire back. Take it slow and remember to breathe, focusing on stretching your head and tailbone upwards, without compressing your spine too much. The idea is to make a U and reverse U shape, not a circle.
Core Strengthening – This is really important. The muscles around your backbone play a vital role in keeping it functioning optimally. If those core muscles are weak, your spine pays for it big time. By incorporating some simple lower back, oblique, and abdominal exercises into your routine, you can prevent (and treat!) back pain and injury. The 2 exercises below are amazing for strengthening literally every muscle in your core. The best part is that unlike traditional ab exercises that only work your larger muscle groups (like crunches), they also target your stabilizing muscles, which is crucial for supporting your back.
Plank – Hold this position for as long as you can (30-60 seconds is a good goal) without letting your hips sag or lift upwards too much. There should be a straight line from your shoulders, through your hips, to your heels.
Hip Bridge – Try to focus on engaging your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings to push your hips upwards. 3 sets of 20-30 repetitions is a good place to start. When you are new to this exercise, it can be tempting to tense your upper body, but for optimal effectiveness, try to keep your shoulders, arms, and neck as relaxed as possible.
Do you suffer from chronic back problems? What have you found most helpful to remedy them? Let’s start a conversation in the comments – I’d love to hear your thoughts!