Activity might start with walking around the house to a stroll to the shops – or some formal exercise moves.

Your doctor may recommend an exercise programme of around eight sessions over up to 12 weeks.

This is likely to be in a group supervised by a qualified instructor.

Stretching or activities that place additional strain on the back are discouraged.

So what are good or bad exercises for lower back pain?

How exercise helps lower back pain

Although your instincts tells you to rest, getting moving is good for your back. Exercises for lower back pain can strengthen back, stomach and leg muscles. These help support your spine, which in turn can help relieve back pain.

Always seek medical advice before starting exercises for back pain.

What’s right and wrong for you will depend on the cause and severity of your lower back pain.

Some mild discomfort at the start of exercises should disappear as muscles become stronger. However, if pain is worse than mild and lasts longer than 15 minutes during the exercise, stop exercising and seek medical advice.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercise like walking, swimming and cycling may all help reduce back pain. Start with short sessions and build up over time. If your back is hurting, try swimming, where the water supports your body. Avoid any strokes that twist your body.

Partial crunches

Partial crunches can help strengthen your back and stomach muscles. Lie withknees bent and feet flat on a mat. Cross your arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor.Breathe out as you raise your shoulders. Don’t lead with your elbows or use arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat eight to 12 times. To prevent excessive stress on your lower back, keep your feet, tailbone and lower back in contact with the mat at all times.

Hamstring stretches

Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do two to four times for each leg.

Wall sits

Stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall, then lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Count to 10, then carefully slide back up the wall. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Press-up back extensions

Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Push with your hands so your shoulders begin to lift off the floor. If it’s comfortable for you, put your elbows on the floor directly under your shoulders and hold this position for several seconds.

Bird dog

Start on your hands and knees, and tighten your stomach muscles. Lift and extend one leg behind you. Keep hips level. Hold for five seconds, and then switch to the other leg. Repeat eight to 12 times for each leg, and try to lengthen the time you hold each lift. Try lifting and extending your opposite arm for each repetition. This exercise is a great way to learn how to stabilise the low back during movement of the arms and legs. While doing this exercise don’t let the lower back muscles sag. Only raise the limbs to heights where the low back position can be maintained.

Knee to chest

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring one knee to your chest, keeping the other foot flat on the floor. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Then lower your knee and repeat with the other leg. Do this two to four times for each leg.

Pelvic tilts

Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Tighten your stomach by pulling in and imagining your belly button moving toward your spine. You’ll feel your back pressing into the floor, and your hips and pelvis rocking back. Hold for 10 seconds while breathing in and out smoothly. Repeat eight to 12 times.

Bridging

Lie on your back with knees bent and just your heels on the floor. Push your heels into the floor, squeeze your buttocks, and lift your hips off the floor until shoulders, hips, and knees are in a straight line. Hold about six seconds, and then slowly lower hips to the floor and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat eight to 12 times. Avoid arching your lower back as your hips move upward. Avoid overarching by tightening your abdominal muscles prior and throughout the lift.

Lifting weights may help

Done properly, lifting weights doesn’t usually hurt your back. In fact, it may help relieve chronic back pain. But when you have acute (sudden) back pain, putting extra stress on back muscles and ligaments could increase risk of further injury. Seek medical advice about whether you should lift weights and which exercises to avoid.

Some Pilates moves

Pilates combines stretching, strengthening, and core abdominal exercises. Under the instruction of an experienced teacher, it may help some people with backpain. Tell the instructor about your back pain, because you may need to avoid some moves.

Avoid these exercises for lower back pain

Some exercises may make pain worse.

Touching your toes standing up puts greater stress on the disks and ligaments in your spine. They can also overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings.

Although you might think sit-ups can strengthen your core or abdominal muscles, most people tend to use muscles in the hips when doing sit-ups. Sit-ups may also put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine.

Leg lifts: Lifting both legs together while lying on your back can make back pain worse. Instead, try lying on your back with one leg straight and the other leg bent at the knee.

Lower back pain self-care at home

Other tips for managing lower back pain at home include:

  • Sleeping with a pillow between the knees while lying on one side may increase comfort. Some doctors recommend lying on your back with a pillow under your knees.
  • Non-prescription medications may provide relief from pain. Ibuprofen, available over-the-counter, is an excellent medication for the short-term treatment of lower back pain. Because of the risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your doctor or pharmacist beforehand. Paracetamol has been shown to be as effective as ibuprofen in relieving pain. Topical agents such as deep heating rubs may help some people.
  • Some people seem to benefit from the use of ice or heat. Take care: do not use a heating pad on high or place ice or other cold therapy directly on the skin.

Most experts agree that prolonged bed rest is associated with a longer recovery period. People resting in bed are also more likely to develop depression, blood clots in the legs and decreased muscle tone. Very few experts recommend more than a 48-hour period of decreased activity or bed rest. In other words get up and get moving as much as you can.

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