1. Lumbar rotations 2. Knees to Chest 3. Open book or Windmills 4. Squats 5. Single leg RDL (Romanian Dead Lift) 6. Modified Plank
When we look at the best treatment for lower back pain, we see that exercise is at the top of the list and for good reason. It is high value care that has great benefits and little to no risk. Exercise is very safe for lower back pain. It more about how and what you do. Most people know that they should strengthen their back and improve their mobility but don't want to do damage or make themselves worse. I completely understand that. I feel the same way. When you exercise and have lower back pain, the key is learning your body and starting off slow and controlled. I do this with all of my patients. We need to learn your body. I always strive to help you not only get stronger and have less pain but also learn as much about your back and body as you can. Keep this in the back of your mind when you try this workout!
The diagnoses that can benefit from exercise include non-specific lower back pain, disc degeneration, arthritis, stenosis, and even disc bulges. With that said, you always want to listen to your body and flirt with soreness and discomfort but never move past it. That's why I put together my go to exercises to form a lower back warm up and workout that is safe, effective, and effecient. Let me know what you think!
Lumbar rotation. 20 repetitions, 1 sec holds each. Lumbar rotations are a very good way to warm up your lower back. Start by laying on your back. You can have a pillow to support your neck if you would like. Bend your knees and have your feet flat on that ground. Then, rotate side to side. Let gravity take you as far as your body feels like going. You should feel a stretch on the right side of your lower back when you rotation to the left. How far you go is not the goal. Just focus on warming up your lower back.
Knees to chest. 5-10 repetitions with 5-10 second hold. Starting laying on your back and then pull your knees towards your chest. Complete a short hold to feel a stretch in your lower back. No need to hold too long. Just a good pull then relax. You can also grab behind your knees if you have any kind of knee pain that may limit you.
Open book or Windmills. 10-15 on each side Lay on your side and make sure you have a pillow to support your head. While laying on your side bring your knees toward your chest and stack them on top of each other. Then, the arm you are laying on, use that hand to lock down your top knee. Once ready, rotate and open up. Follow your hand with your head so as you rotate your arm, your head will also rotate. Go as far as you feel comfortable and make sure you breathe out as your rotate. You should feel this from your lower back to your upper back. Any part of your spine is fair game.
Strengthening is important for lower back pain so let’s move forward with improving your strength and resiliency. What you do to strengthen your back matters. Don’t blow past your pain but you will flirt with it. The goal here is be efficient and effective with back strengthening. We live busy lives and we want to be stronger but we are all limited on time. So here are 3 great ways to strengthen in your home or office! These focus on your posterior chain or the back of your body. They are the antigravity and postural muscles.
Squat. 2 sets of 12-15. The classic way to strengthen your whole lower body. There are many ways to do a squat. You might start with a micro bend in your knees and that is okay! Gradually work up in greater ranges and depths. It is perfectly safe to squat with lower back pain but you need to listen to your body as you go.
RDL (Single leg romanian dead lift) 2 sets of 12 on each leg. Step with your right foot and reach with your left hand towards your foot. The intent is to feel this in the back of your leg. This takes practice and it also works on your balance! As you continue you will feel your hamstrings and lower back firing.
Plank. Goal is 60 seconds but work up to it! Generally, people think that you have to be on your elbows for this but that’s not true. I often have my patients start on their hands and knees and gradually increase the distance from their knees to their hands as they get stronger. It is important to keep you core engaged. As a rule, if you feel it in your back, rest, then repeat. I have found that your body will tell you what muscles you are using. The goal is to feel your core engage and improve your endurance.
In summary: We know that exercise should not be avoided with lower back painand learned that exercise is strongly supported by evidence. I have seen exercise help 1000’s of people who have lower back and who want to prevent it. It’s what you do and how you do it that matters. We need to be smart and listen to our body. We are all busy but we also want to be able to feel better and do more despite our lower back pain. Quick and effective lower back pain workouts at home are perfect for those who work from home or have busy lives. Try to the 10 min workout to improve your pain, mobility, and strength.
If you want to know more about improving hip and lower back pain check out this free webinar I completed. It covers differences between hip and back pain as well as common treatments for both as well as best evidence for recovery!
Revision Health Services now offers massage and physical therapy in Jacksonville, Nocatee, and St. Johns Florida. As well as telehealth in Florida. If you are interested please reach out so we can discuss if you are a candidate!
Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.