By Emma Stewart
The body thrives on balance. Our muscles and joints are happiest when they are getting an equal and total range of motion. The spine is no different and since its range of motion is smaller than most other joints, imbalances can be felt more intensely.
The spine requires the stability of the supporting muscles that surround it to keep up upright and mobile. When a link in this system is weak, the body will compensate in order to expend the least amount of energy, and injury may occur as a result.
Although there are various factors that contribute to the development of low back pain, some of the common culprits are: tight hamstrings/glutes/hip flexors, weakness in the core/glutes, and lack of spinal mobility.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” – Buddhist Proverb
So how do you fix or prevent this? Here are five things you can do today to make sure your glutes are firing, your core is tight, and your hips and back muscles stay strong but supple.
- Lower Trunk Rotations (15-20 repetitions to each side)
Lying on your back with your knees bent, gently rotate your spine as you move your knees to the side and then reverse directions and move your knees to the other side. Hold 3-5 seconds here. Repeat as you move through a comfortable range of motion.
- Couch Stretch (3-5 repetitions on each leg)
Kneel on a pillow or couch cushion facing away from your couch/chair. Lean forward and put one foot on your couch. May hold onto a chair/foam roller for stabilization. Stretch should be felt in the front of the thigh of the leg that that has the foot on the couch/chair. Hold 30-60 seconds. Remember to keep your low back in a neutral spine position (do not over arch/overextend your back).
- Hamstring Stretch (3-5 repetitions on each leg)
Lie on your back and place a stretching strap on your foot. Pull on the strap to assist in raising your leg up for a stretch to the back of your leg. Keep your target leg straight to slightly bent the entire time. Hold 30-60 seconds.
- Posterior Pelvic Tilts (30 repetitions)
Lying on your back with your knees bent, gently flatten your back to the table and roll your hips up. Hold 3-5 seconds in this position. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat. You should NOT be holding your breath during this exercise.
- Clamshells (3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side)
While lying on your side with your knees bent, make sure that your shoulders, hips, and feet are aligned in the same plane. Tie an elastic band around your legs, just above your knees. Draw up the top knee while keeping your feet together. Do not let your pelvis roll back during the lifting movement.
Incorporate these exercises and stretches into your daily routine to help ease and prevent lower back pain. As always if anything causes more pain or feels uncomfortable, consult your doctor or local physical therapist for further assistance.
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