Everyone is bound to experience back pain at some point. The chronic pain could be due to poor posture, injury or an underlying medical condition like scoliosis or sciatica. In fact, over 20 percent of adults around the world experience chronic lower back pain. Depending on the cause, the intensity of a person’s back pain may range from mild to severe. It might either feel like a sharp, stabbing sensation or a dull ache that persists over time.
Experiencing back pain may not always point to a life-threatening condition by itself. But neglecting to address the underlying cause could lead to more severe spinal problems in the future.
And recurring instances of even mild back pain can take a heavy toll on your quality of life if you let them go unaddressed for a long time. Luckily, you can protect and strengthen your spine in many ways, regardless of your age or life circumstances.
Exercising your back regularly alleviates pain and stiffness, facilitates blood flow through your back, and lowers your risk of injury. Regular exercise is not only great for building strength and flexibility but will also help keep you from developing uncomfortable spine problems.
Try these 7 easy but effective exercises to improve your spinal health:
The cat and cow poses are traditional yoga poses that aim to improve spinal flexibility. Start this stretching sequence on your hands and knees with your knees set hip-width apart. Relax your muscles and arch your back, lifting your chest and tailbone high. This position is referred to as the cow pose.
Then begin to puff your back upwards and pull your belly button in to round the spine, which is known as the cat pose. Repeat this sequence 3-5 times in succession. Try to move from cow to cat in time with your breathing, inhaling through the cow pose and letting the breath go when you assume the cat pose.
This stretch lengthens your spine and helps alleviate pain in the lower back. Lie down on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Draw one knee up toward your chest with your hands and squeeze it in. Hold this position for 5 seconds, pressing your spine against the floor. Return your leg to its initial position and repeat the stretch with your other leg. Do the stretch 2-3 times per leg.
Gentle spinal twists can help ease tension in your back and strengthen your core muscles, which, in turn, can help support your spine.
Begin by lying back on the floor, knees bent upwards and feet flat. Stretch your arms out in a T and press your shoulders into the floor beneath you. Then roll both of your knees to one side until they come to rest on the floor. Hold this pose for about 5-10 seconds. Move your knees back into the original position, then repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Make sure to keep your shoulders on the floor to maximize the impact of each twist.
Bridges don’t just help you build strength in your back. They also strengthen your core, buttocks and hamstring muscles, all of which provide crucial spinal support.
To do this exercise, lie on your back, bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor about hip-width apart. Then begin lifting your hips off the ground, keeping your feet rooted in place and your shoulders firmly against the floor.
Engage your back and buttocks to sustain this pose and hold it for around five seconds before carefully returning to your starting position. You can safely do a maximum of about 30 bridges a day.
Abdominal crunches are another tried-and-true way to develop a strong core. As with the above stretches, this exercise requires you to lie flat on your back on the floor, knees bent and feet planted hip-width apart. You may either lay your hands flat along the sides of your body, reaching toward your feet, or cross them over your chest.
Inhale, tighten the abdominal muscles, and use your core to pull the head and shoulder blades up off the floor as you exhale. Inhale once more as you lower yourself back to your starting position.
Do about 10-15 crunches for a good core workout. For safe and effective crunches, pull yourself up with your core muscles rather than the muscles in your neck and shoulders.
This seated stretch is perfect for loosening the upper back. It’s an ideal stretch to do on short breaks from work, particularly if you’ve been staring at a computer for hours at a time.
All you need to do is sit up straight to align your spine, then slowly lower your head until your chin touches your chest. Hold for 5-10 seconds, then raise your head back to a neutral position. Repeat 3-5 times.
Like the chin-to-chest stretch, the ear-to-shoulder stretch is an easy stretch you can do from your workstation or desk. While sitting up straight, bend your head to one side, almost as if you’re attempting to touch your shoulder with your ear.
Don’t tilt your head too far; it’s fine to stop when you feel a gentle stretch in the side of your neck. As with the prior stretch, you can hold this position for about 5-10 seconds before raising your head. It’s also best to repeat it around 3-5 times.
Even if you don’t suffer from back pain, the above exercises work as an effective preventative maintenance regimen for your spine. Stretching your back frequently will keep your back muscles strong and limber and help you maintain correct spinal alignment.