Back pain is one of the most common medical issues, affecting 8 of 10 people during their lifetime. If you have ever experienced back pain, you know how debilitating it can be. In the midst of a bout of back pain, the last thing you want to do is exercise and stretch. However, stretching exercises may be the most helpful treatment for your pain. Stretching and exercising can lessen the pain and help prevent future episodes.
Exercises to Relieve Back Pain
Regular stretching reduces stress on joints by keeping the muscles and ligaments flexible and mobile. The following stretching exercises can help reduce stiffness and increase mobility which can help decrease chronic back pain and discomfort:
- Neck roll
- Back Extension
- Cat-Cow Stretch
Knee to Chest Lift
For the Knee to Chest Lift, you’ll begin by lying on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Using both hands, pull one knee up towards your chest. After holding for 15 to 30 seconds, return to the starting position. Repeat this exercise with the opposite leg. Return to the starting position and then bring both legs up to the chest at the same time. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch 2 to 3 times. For continued back pain relief, perform this exercise daily, preferably once in the morning and once at night. This stretch is best for tightness and pain throughout the lower back muscles.
This is a common yoga pose which is great for stretching the back muscles along the spine. On your hands and knees, sit back with your buttocks resting upon your heels. Reach your hands out forward to lengthen your spine. At this point, you should feel the stretch in your middle back. You can reach your hands out to either side, focusing the stretch on the opposite side of your spine. Hold each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat 2-3 times twice a day for best results.
Angry Cat Stretch
Position yourself on your hands and knees. Slowly let your stomach and back sag toward the floor to increase extension through your spine. After holding this position for 5-20 seconds, slowly arch your back up, as if you’re pulling your stomach up toward the ceiling, resembling an angry cat. Hold for 5 to 20 seconds. You can repeat this stretch 3 to 5 times. To increase mobility and ease pain, perform this exercise twice a day.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. While keeping your shoulders and head relaxed on the floor, tighten your abdominal and gluteal muscles. Raise your hips, forming a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Try to hold this position long enough to complete three deep breaths and return to starting position. It is recommended you start with five repetitions each day and gradually work up to 30.
Lying Knee Twists
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. While keeping your shoulders firmly on the floor, roll your bent knees to one side. Hold this stretch for 5 to 10 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side. For best results, repeat each stretch two to three times twice daily.
Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet on the floor. Pull your right knee up towards your chest, grabbing behind your thigh. Slowly straighten your right knee until you feel a pull in the back of your thigh and calf. To make this stretch stronger, straighten your left leg out along the floor. You should maintain a small arch in your lower back during the stretch. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds before returning to the start position. Repeat on the opposite side. Repeat each stretch twice once a day.
Back Pain Benefits from Yoga
One of the leading causes for disability among adults today is back pain. Experts believe that an estimated 80% of the population experience back pain sometime in their life. Many of those affected are turning to yoga for help. Why is this? In recent years, researchers have highlighted the benefits of yoga on back pain. In a 2011 study, yoga and stretching proved to be an effective method of treatment of chronic back pain, reducing symptoms and improving function within 12 weeks.
How Does Yoga Help Chronic Back Pain?
So why is yoga so successful at treating back pain? Asana, the physical postures of yoga, can relieve back pain in a number of ways.
Stress Relief for Back Pain
The stress relief that comes from these postures has an important role in relieving pain. Stress makes muscles more likely to go into spasms, which are a contributing factor to both acute and chronic back pain. The practice of asana can be an effective way to relieve muscle tightness, which is what experts believe to be another common factor in back pain. As you work through the poses, the muscles experiencing tension and tightness will stretch and loosen up.
Asana can also bring bones into better alignment, relieving compression of joints and soft tissues. It helps correct improper posture which can play a huge role in back pain. The physical motions of yoga help to increase strength in very specific muscles and muscles groups. Several of the yoga postures focus on strengthening the muscles in the back.
Yoga Strengthens Back Muscles
Continued practice of yoga strengthens these muscle groups and can greatly reduce back pain. The stretching incorporated with yoga helps increase blood flow, allowing nutrients in, pushing toxins out and providing nourishment to the muscles and soft tissues in the back.
Mental Benefits of Yoga
Beyond the physical benefits, yoga also provides mental benefits. Meditation is an important process within yoga which reduces stresses and enhances mood. These benefits contribute to the healing power of yoga. Long-term meditation has been thought to help shape the thinking, creating a decrease in negative perceptions that many believe increase physical pain. There is also evidence that meditation can reduce the transmission of pain signals from the thalamus, where pain signals are interpreted.