As many will know, exercises for lower back pain can strengthen the spine, improve its flexibility, stabilise the abdomen, and energise the leg muscles. Exercise benefits the spine by relieving back pain. You might feel like resting, but moving is actually good for your back pain.
It is important however not to get too exercise happy if you have lower back pain, as not all exercises will be beneficial. Some exercises can cause more pain in the lower back than relieve it. Depending on the cause and intensity of your lower back pain, some exercises may not be recommended as they can be harmful.
To help you with your rehabilitation, we have outlined four (4) lower back pain exercises that should be avoided, and which lower back exercises you can do instead. Please note to always ask your health care professional before doing any exercise for lower back pain. If pain is more than mild and lasts more than 15 minutes during exercise, patients should stop exercising and contact a doctor.
Avoid – Touching Your Toes
The first lower back pain exercise to avoid is Toe Touching. This is because it can aggravate Sciatica or the Sciatic Nerve, and put pressure on the spinal discs and ligaments. Touching your toes can overstretch the muscles in the lower back, placing greater stress on the discs and ligaments which can result in pain.
Instead of toe touching, try the supported Hamstring Stretch instead. To do this you must put one heel up on a chair and tilt your pelvis forward while keeping your back straight and both hands straight, reaching above your foot. You should feel a gentle pull up the back of the leg that is elevated. Hold this for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Avoid – Sit Ups
The second exercise to avoid are Sit Ups. This is because many people use their hip muscles more than their abdominal muscles when doing this exercise. By not using the abdominal muscles you place stress on the lower back causing pressure to be built up on the spinal discs; this worsens lower back pain. The alternative for this exercise is the Partial Crunch.
Partial crunches can help strengthen your back and stomach muscles. Lie with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross arms over your chest or put hands behind your neck. Tighten stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. Breathe out as you raise your shoulders. Don’t lead with your elbows or use arms to pull your neck off the floor. Hold for a second, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 8 to 12 times. Proper form prevents excessive stress on your low back. Your feet, tailbone, and lower back should remain in contact with the mat at all times.
Avoid – Leg Lifts
The third lower back pain exercise to avoid are Leg Lifts. Interestingly, leg lifts are sometimes recommended as a treatment for lower back pain because they strengthen abdominal muscles which in turn helps relieve back pain. However lying on your back and lifting your legs up is very demanding on your core, it puts a lot of pressure on the discs in your lower back which can result in pain or further aggravating the injury. If weak, this exercise can make back pain worse.
Therefore, Wall Sits are recommended instead. This puts less pressure on the back, but also allows for strong abdominal stretches. Stand 10 to 12 inches from the wall, then lean back until your back is flat against the wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are slightly bent, pressing your lower back into the wall. Hold for a count of 10, then carefully slide back up the wall. Repeat 8 to 12 times.
Avoid – Running
The last type of exercise to avoid is Running. Many runners experience back pain especially lower back pain because of the repetitive stress and impact running puts on the body for a significant duration of time. If all of the bones in the vertebrae and the other vertebral articulations in the spine are functioning well, then your back has no problems. It’s when these vertebrae are aggravated that causes the pain. In addition, one key to lower back health is the pelvis. The sacroiliac (or SI) joints move well in a normal running gait, but if the SI joints are not moving well, it can add wear and tear to the lower back area.
If you already have lower back pain, running may exacerbate it. Lower back pain is common among new runners or runners who have taken some time off and come back too strong and too quickly. Therefore Walking is a great alternative! Not only does walking ease your lower back pain, it boosts your mood and is healthy for the heart. Walking for just 20-40 minutes, twice a week, can help to ease your lower back pain.