Core Exercises for Back Pain

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Back pain can be reduced by strengthening the core muscles, which consist of the abdominal (stomach), back and pelvic areas. All support the spine and protect the lower back from overextending. Many daily activities, such as driving, sitting at a computer, attending meetings and making phone calls can tax the back, resulting in back pain. You may want to stop exercising for fear of increased pain, but exercising your core muscles appropriately is a solution to back pain.

Mat Pilates

  • Attend a Pilates mat class or design your own Pilates routine. Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates to improve muscle imbalances, flexibility, coordination and balance. It has been around since the early 1900s and has been used for injury rehabilitation. Mat Pilates is a series of well-rounded strengthening exercises done on the floor (as opposed to using Pilates machines). It is one of the best ways to improve core strength. For the best results, do a Pilates routine two to three times per week.

Back Stretches

  • Stretch out tight back muscles often, especially those in the lower back. Lie on your back on the floor and curl your knees up to your chest. Hold on to your knees and gently roll side to side. Try rolling the knees to one side and touching the floor while your shoulders and backs of your arms stay in contact with the floor in a T formation. Then, roll the knees to the other side.

    Another stretch is to sit in a chair and do a gentle twist to one side and look away from your knees. Repeat on the other side.

Back-Strengthening Exercises

  • Do exercises to gradually build back strength. Exercises like the Superman (a Pilates move) and upward-facing dog (a yoga pose) are examples of great back exercises. To do the Superman, lie on your stomach and stretch your arms above your head with palms facing down. Now lift both arms off the floor, hovering above ground about six inches. At the same time, also lift your legs and let them hover. Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds.

    To do upward-facing dog, lie on your stomach and place your hands right below your shoulders. Slowly lift your chest off the ground and straighten the arms as much as you can tolerate. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

    The pelvic tilt is an exercise most people can easily do to improve core strength. To try it, lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Contract your stomach and buttocks muscles as you push the lower back into the floor.

    Push-ups done against a wall or leaning over a chair or table are also effective. The key is to always do these exercise using good form, stopping if you feel pain.

Abdominal Exercises

  • Do exercises to strengthen the stomach muscles. Curl-ups are a great stomach exercise that should not hurt the lower back. Lie on your back on the floor and gently curl the shoulders off the ground, hold for a few seconds, and return to the floor. Do this 10 to 15 times. Curl-ups can be done almost every day.

    The plank pose from yoga and open-leg stance from Pilates are more advanced abdominal exercises that you can do when you become stronger.

Equipment

  • Use equipment to make core moves either easier or more advanced. A stability ball is a great tool for abdominal crunches, pelvic tilts, push-ups, and more. Sitting and bouncing on the ball also gets the spine moving in a gentle way. Lying backwards over the ball is a more advanced back stretch.

    Machines like the lat (latissimus dorsi muscle) pull-down machine improve back strength; resistance bands can also be used to do lat pull-downs. Doing reverse flys with free weights can build stronger back muscles, too.

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