I’ve had a few clients who have had chronic back pain. There are several exercises I would program as a warm up and a cool down before their sessions. The same moves also work well for pregnant women trying to relieve back discomfort caused by their growing bump. So it’s no surprise that these are the exercises I turned to after I pulled a muscle in my back last week, to get moving again.
* As always, remember to check with your doctor before trying this, or any other workout, since these exercises may not be appropriate for every individual. *
The Best Exercises to Relieve Back Pain
Let’s start off with the Cat-Cow pose, because it just feels so good, whether you’re in pain or not. From an all-fours position, round your back as high as you can (cat pose), then drop your back, let your shoulder blades sink and your head rise (cow pose).
Tail Wags (also called hip hikes, but c’mon, “tail wags” sounds more fun) saved me during pregnancy. This movement feels amazing for your lower back. Still in the all-fours position, keeping the shoulders still, rotate the right hip towards the right shoulder, return to the starting position, then rotate the left hip as far as you can towards the left shoulder.
I call this next exercise Quadripeds, but it’s also known as Bird Dog. Whatever you want to call it, it’s great for your back, since you’re working to hold your spine in a neutral position while your limbs are moving. Still in the all fours position, with a neutral spine, take one arm and the opposite leg and slowly extend them away from your torso as far as you can. Slowly return to all-fours, then switch to the other side. Your goal is to keep your back as still as possible – some trainers use a light wooden dowel resting on their clients spine to ensure they are not moving their back at all while the limbs extend.
Pendulums, performed slowly and carefully, work on spinal rotation. Lie down on your back with arms out in a T and legs up in a tabletop position. Slowly drop the legs to one side, keeping your shoulder blades down throughout the movement. Only go as far as it feels comfortable, then return to center before rotating to the opposite side.
If you happen to have access to a stability ball, try a chest stretch, which can become tight from hunching and compensating for your back pain. And let’s face it, your chest is usually tight, thanks to computers and office jobs and poor posture. That means, any time you see one of these balls, make a run for it and get this stretch in – you’ll feel amazing. Take a seat, then walk your feet forwards away from the ball, until your lower back is draped over top and your shoulders, arms and head fall back. Keep your arms up above the shoulder joint and feel the stretch in the pectorals.
I threw in the Sanskrit name for the Legs Up the Wall Pose, because ‘Legs Up the Wall’ just doesn’t have a sexy ring to it, does it? At least it’s perfectly descriptive – you lie on your back on the floor, with your legs up against a wall. Usually, you use a bolster or folded blanket to place beneath your hips. Instead, I kept a pelvic tilt position throughout the pose. If you’re pregnant and want to attempt this pose, you may need to elevate your torso, to avoid pressure on your inferior vena cava, a large vein in your abdomen that runs blood from your legs to your heart.
Some other exercises you can try to relieve lower back pain include cobra pose – a back extension from a prone position – which I didn’t do because it hurt my QL; partial curls; and single knee to chest.
Have you had back pain before? Any exercises that helped you?
Do you do exercises or static stretches after working out?