If you have noticed aches or pains in your low back at some point over the past few months, you are not alone. This year has been filled with all sorts of changes, from transitioning to working from home to changing how we exercise or stay active. Despite our best efforts to create a proper work from home space or exercise routine, back pain has found its way into many of our lives.
Strengthening your core and improving your posture can create a huge impact on reducing those low back aches and pains. Our spine is made up of several bones (vertebra) that all join together to essentially create a chain. Along with strengthening muscles throughout the core, it is important to help these bones move the way they are designed to move by incorporating spinal mobility exercises. If you are one of the many others that is experiencing new or recurring back pain, give some of these strength and mobility exercises a try.
Lie down on your back with your knees bent and feel flat on the floor. Place your hands on your hips to help get a feel for this motion. Squeeze your belly as if you are trying to bring your belly button in toward the ground. Gently exhaling can help to activate this contraction. The goal is to feel your pelvis rotate backward (posterior pelvic tilt). Repeat this for 12-15 repetitions.
Marches and Dead Bugs
Position yourself the same way as above with the pelvic tilts. Begin with the pelvic tilt and lift one knee toward your chest, then back down. Alternate left and right 20 times. If this is not challenging enough for you, lift both knees at the same time and alternate lowering one leg down to the table as seen below. Perform 20 repetitions.
This will target your hip and back extensors as well as help to strengthen your shoulder blades to keep them in a good position throughout the day. On your hands and knees, extend your left arm and right leg simultaneously. Alternate between left arm-right leg and right arm-left leg. Really focus on keeping your hips and low back stable so you aren’t overarching your back or leaning to the side.
To strengthen your glutes, these hip bridges will be a good starting point. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Push through your heels and lift your hips off the ground. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions. For an added challenge, try straightening one leg and lift your hips with only one leg (single leg bridge).
Lower Trunk Rotations
This exercise is great for opening up and loosening your lower back. Start with lying on your back, then bend your knees so your feet are flat on the ground. With your knees together, slowly lower them down to the left and then to the right. Do this back and forth motion about 20 times.
Single Knee To Chest Stretch
Bring your knee to your chest and hold it there for 30 seconds or more. This will help to stretch those pesky hamstrings. Alternate between left and right for two times on each side.
Standing Hip Flexor Stretch
Our hip, pelvis, and low back positioning all have an influence on each other. We have muscles that attach to our lower back and hip, if these muscles become tight or shortened they also affect our posture. Stand with a staggered stance, right leg in front of the left. The left leg will be the one being stretched. Try squeezing your belly button in, this will help to keep your core tight. Shift your weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of the left hip. Hold in this position for 30 seconds, then switch for the other side.
Sitting in a chair for longer periods of time can lead to sitting with less than ideal posture. Rounding through the middle of the back (thoracic spine) for long periods can leave us feeling stiff. This exercise will help to get the thoracic spine moving. Lie on right your side with your knees tucked up towards your chest. With your arm reaching straight out, slowly rotate as far and you comfortably can to the left as if you are trying to touch the left shoulder to the table. Repeat 10 times, then switch to the other side.
Post written by FFC Contributor and Physical Therapist at RUSH Physical Therapy Nate Deblauw.
Nate Deblauw is a physical therapist at our Gold Coast FFC and Rogers Park centers. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Indiana University and a doctorate of physical therapy from Northwestern University. Nate has achieved success in the treatment of orthopaedic and musculoskeletal injuries, running injuries, shoulder pain, low back pain and post-operative rehabilitation. He works with his patients to create an individualized treatment plan to achieve their goals and get them back to their optimal level of function.