Is your work, family life or personal life, suffering due to your back ache? Don’t suffer in silence and don’t keep trying to ‘walk it off’. If your back pain is persistent and won’t go away with rest or OTC painkillers, it is time to consult a doctor. Research says that about 85% of people are affected by bad back pain at least once in their lives!
Back Pain: Who Is At Risk?
The following factors pose a higher risk for back pain:
- Age > 35 years
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Anxiety, stress and depression
- Over strain caused by exercise or physical activity
- Medical conditions like fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis
Symptoms Of Back Pain:
If your back pain is accompanied by any of these symptoms, consult your doctor at once:
- Weight loss
- Elevated temperature
- Visible inflammation in the back
- Incontinence (urinary and/or fecal)
- Back ache reaching the legs
- Numbness around the genitals, anus and hips
Types of Back Pain:
Before you pick any of these exercises for back pain, it is important to identify the type of pain you are experiencing. Back pain may be:
1) Acute – Lasts for 3 to 6 months. Its onset is sudden. Its main cause is tissue damage.
2) Chronicpain – Lasts for longer than 6 months and may be caused by injury or some other medical condition.
3) Neuropathicpain or Nerve Pain – Nerves in the back continue to perceive pain, even in the absence of tissue damage or even after healing of a back injury.
The back or, to be more exact the spine, can roughly be divided into the: upper, middle and lower back. In the next section, we will explore some effective exercises for all three portions of the back.
Back Pain Exercises
Exercises for Upper Back Pain:
1. Pectoralis Stretch:
Position yourself in an open doorway and stretch your arms so that they touch the sides of the door, slightly above your head level. Lean forward without moving the arms till you feel a stretch. Hold for some time and repeat 5-8 times.
2. Scapular Squeeze:
Sit or stand with your arms at the sides. Now squeeze the shoulder blades together as far as you can. Hold and repeat 8-10 times.
3. Thoracic Extension:
One among the best exercises to reduce back pain is this thoracic extension. Sit with your back straight and arms behind your head. Arch backwards as far as possible as if you’re looking at the ceiling. Repeat at least 5 times.
Loop a length of rubber or elastic tubing around a pillar or water pipe. Keeping the elbows bent at 90 degrees and with the forearms vertical, pull the band backward till you feel the shoulder blades squeezing. Repeat 3 sets of ten ‘rows’ each.
5. Arm Slides:
Stand against a wall with your elbows and wrists touching it. Move the arms upwards along the wall, without losing contact of the elbows and wrists with the wall. Bring the arms down. Repeat this 10 times.
6. Mid-trap Exercise:
Lie on your stomach on the floor/mat with a cushion/towel under the chest to elevate it slightly. Stretch the arms out with your thumbs pointing at the ceiling. Now lift your arms towards the ceiling till you feel a stretch in the shoulder blades. Do this 10-15 times.
7. Thoracic Stretch:
Sit on the floor with your hands holding the thighs and knees bent. Next, bring your head towards your belly. Hold the position as much as possible without straining the neck. Repeat 5 times.
Exercises for Middle Back Pain:
8. Arm Lifts:
While sitting on a straight chair, lift your right arm vertically above your head. Stretch it as far as you can go and hold for a few seconds. Bring it down and repeat with the left arm.
9. Seated Bending:
Sit on a straight chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly bend to touch your toes. It is not important to actually touch the toes; the aim here is to arch the back as far as is comfortable for you. Sit up straight and repeat 5-8 times.
10. Back Lift:
Use a yoga mat to lie flat on your stomach with the arms at the side, palms facing the ceiling. Next, lift your head, neck and back off the mat as far as you can. Hold the position for about 3 seconds and come back slowly. Repeat 8-10 times.
11. Modified Push Ups:
Lie on the stomach on a yoga mat with your hands placed close to the head. Now lift your torso off the floor using your hands, without lifting the hips. Stretch as much as possible and repeat 5-8 times.
12. Back Arch:
Position yourself on the floor on all fours. Now bend and clasp the hands together with the elbows touching the floor. In this position, slowly arch the back and lower your head. Hold the arch for about 10 seconds, return and repeat around 5 times. One of the perfect exercises for back pain relief!
13. The Stick Hold:
Take a long stick or even a curtain rod. Place it across the shoulders behind your neck. Drape your arms over the bar and rotate the back left and right. Make slow movements and go as far as you can.
14. The Chair Bend:
Stand against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart and about a foot away from the wall. Slowly lower yourself till your thighs are parallel to the floor. Do this by sliding the back across the wall. Hold the ‘chair position’ for 5-8 seconds and repeat about 10 times.
Exercises for Lower Back Pain:
15. Heel Slides:
Lie on your back on a yoga mat or firm mattress. Slowly bend the right knee and draw it up as far as is comfortable for your lower back. Hold for a while and return to the first position. Repeat for the left knee. Do at least 10 bends for each knee.
16. Modified Crunches:
In the list of exercises to get rid of back pain, the modified crunches cannot be ignored! Lie on your back on a yoga mat with your knees slightly bent and hands under the ribs to support the back. Rather than lifting your back, tighten the abdominal muscles as if squeezing the ribs towards the back. Hold the position for 5-7 seconds and relax. Repeat 10-12 times.
17. Ankle Stretches:
Lie on your back or sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Stretch the ankles as much as you can and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat as many times as you can. This exercise can be done many times during the day.
18. Heel Lifts:
Stand facing a wall or the back of a chair with your feet slightly apart. Keep the hands on the wall or hold the chair for support. Now lift yourself up till you are on your tiptoes. Hold this position for about 8-10 seconds and return. Repeat as many times as possible, any number of times during the day.
19. Leg Raises:
Here is another lying exercises for back pain! Lie on the back on a mat with the left leg straight and right leg bent at the knee. Next, lift your left leg off the mat to about 10 inches using the abdominal muscles to support the leg’s weight. This can be difficult at first. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat with the right leg.
20. Piriformis Stretch:
Lie on your back on a mat or hard mattress with both your knees bent. Cross one leg over the other, supporting them with the hands behind the knee. In this crossed position, bring the legs towards the chest till you feel a stretch in the hips. Hold for at least 15 seconds and relax. Repeat this 5 times.
21. Swiss Ball Exercise:
Lie on your abdomen on a Swiss Ball, taking care not to arch the back. Keep the back straight and support the body with your hands flat on the floor. Now slowly raise the arms and legs in sequence as far as possible. Do 3-5 sets for all four limbs.
Exercises for Back Pain During Pregnancy:
Since pregnancy is a very critical time, it is ill-advised to do any of the above exercises without consulting your gynecologist and spine specialist. Here are some mild and safe exercises for easing the back pain that pregnancy brings along:
22. Pelvic Tilts:
Lie on your back with the knees bent. Try to flatten the spine so that the space between the floor and the small of the back reduces. Hold the tilt as much as is comfortable for you. If lying is uncomfortable, this exercise can be done standing against a wall.
23. Wall Squats:
Stand with your back against a wall, making sure that the head, shoulders and back all touch the wall. Place the feet about a foot away from the wall and straighten the lower back towards the wall. Next, bend your knees slowly till they reach an almost 90 degree angle. Hold the position and slide back slowly. Repeat at least 5 times.
24. Arm And Leg Raises:
Position yourself on the floor on all fours and with a straight spine. Lift the right arm and left leg till they are parallel to the floor. Hold the stretch for about 5 seconds and repeat with the left arm and right leg. In case you cannot maintain your balance, do this exercise by lifting only one limb at a time.
25. Downward Facing Stretch:
Stand straight on the floor. Bend and place your palms on the floor. Slowly lower the torso and head towards the floor. Hold this gentle stretch for about 10 seconds and bring the torso upwards. Repeat 5-8 times.
A Word of Caution:
Since the spine is a highly sensitive area of the body, it is recommended that you practice these precautions:
- Always ask your doctor before beginning an exercise routine for the back
- Do not exercise immediately after using an ice pack
- Stop exercising if it causes acute pain that lasts for more than 2 hours
- Stop the exercise if it causes nausea, numbness and breathlessness
- During pregnancy, discontinue any exercise if it causes any discomfort, always putting the safety of the baby above your pain.
So here are 25 easy exercises for back pain relief anyone can do at home. They require almost no specialized equipment or expensive gym memberships. Of course, you can always opt for pricier choices, but then, the results would be the same. These exercises can be done with minimal supervision and in the comfort of your home. Some of them can even be done at the workplace during breaks.
If you are into yoga, you can also find some very effective asanas for back pain relief. However, these must be done only under experienced teachers as yoga done incorrectly will do more harm than good. Remember not to overstrain yourself, especially not your back. The spine is what holds you up, so be careful with it. In addition to exercising, you can also do these things to avoid further distress to your already aching back:
- Use your knees to bend while lifting a weight off the ground, don’t bend your back.
- Don’t stand or sit in the same position and posture for long. Shift your weight on both legs in an alternating manner.
- Avoid sleeping on your back or your abdomen; they both put extra pressure on the spine. The best position to sleep is on the side with a pillow between the knees.
- Avoid carrying a heavy bag (laptop bag, purse, etc.) on one shoulder. Get a bag that can be carried across the back.
- Use a firm mattress, and not one that is too soft and downy. The firm mattress supports the back.
- Try to maintain a schedule where you cycle, walk, swim or jog regularly.
- Set limits for yourself. Don’t over strain your back. Explain to the people living and working with you that there are some things that you won’t be able to do because of your back pain.
Here’s hoping that one or some of these tips and exercises help you control and reduce your back pain. Remember: when in pain, discontinue these back pain exercises and visit your doctor.