10 Exercises to Relieve Back Pain

As people are sitting for long periods of time, back pain is on the rise. The human body was designed to move, not sit. We are not meant to work out for an hour after work each day. Our bodies are designed to move all day. With the amount of sedentary time that humans have each day, it is no surprise that back pain is a problem.

The Trouble with Sedentary Lifestyles

According to several studies, a major culprit for back pain is too much sitting. In a study published in the BMJ Open, researchers found that people who are sedentary and use the computer most of the day are likely to suffer from back pain. This includes people who work in offices, hospitals, and schools. The pain was intensified when people did not sit properly or have their computer monitors set up in proper locations.

Getting the Body Moving

If being sedentary exacerbates back pain, then the best cure for back pain is movement. Researchers have found that regular exercise can bring relief. One study, published in The Spine Journal, found that regular exercise saw their back pain decrease by rates up to 50%.

It’s not just any exercise that brings relief to back pain. While regular movement does help ease pain, yoga exercises have been proven to bring the most relief. Several studies have looked at how yoga brings relief to back pain. In one study published in the National Institutes of Health, people who practiced yoga for 20 to 75 minutes on a daily basis actually reduced their reliance on pain medication to treat their back pain. Most remarkably, the study found that many participants reported total relief after practicing regularly for three or six months.

Let’s take a look at 10 exercises that are often incorporated into yoga practices. These exercises can help relieve back pain and can be done at any point in the day, not just during a scheduled yoga class:

1. Cat-cow stretch

This pose can be done in a chair, on the floor, or while standing. In yoga classes, it is usually done on a mat on all fours. But, during the day, the easiest way to do this pose is while seated. Sit up straight at the front of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees with the arms straight. Inhale, then arch your back forward, looking up to the sky. Then exhale, curving the back behind you, looking at your knees. Repeat several times until your back feels better. This stretches the back and the front of the body, too.

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2. Seated twist

You can do this exercise on a mat or on a chair, too. It is a basic twist that opens up the low back and mid back. Sit up straight at the front of your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Inhale and extend the spine up to the ceiling, then twist toward the right. Use your hands on your chair to increase the twist. Exhale and settle into the twist. Hold for a few breaths, using your inhales and exhales to move deeper into the twist. Then, return to neutral and repeat the exercise on the other side.

3. Seated leg lifts

Sit at the front of the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Put your hands in a comfortable place on the chair and relax your arms and hands. Then, left both legs at the same time, engaging your core muscles. Hold for a few breaths, then relax the legs with control back to the floor. Repeat several times.

4. Wall pushups

Stand, facing a wall. Acting as if the wall were the floor, put your hands on the wall with your arms straight, just like you would for a floor pushup. Your feet should also be flat on the floor. Bend your elbows and bring your body close to the wall, then push back against the wall straighten your arms. Engage your belly muscles and focus on your arms and chest muscles, too. These are easier than floor pushups, but your muscle activity can add difficulty to the exercises. Repeat as often as you want.

5. Child’s pose

This resting pose stretches the back and immediately brings short-term relief to back discomfort. Start on all fours on your hands and knees, then shift the weight back and put your rear end on your heels. Extend the arms out in front of your head, resting your arms on the floor. If that isn’t comfortable, you can rest your arms along the side of the body. Tilt your rear end toward your heels for extra relief.

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6. Cobra pose

This backbend pose gets the spine moving. Lay on your belly on the floor. Then, place your hands under your shoulder joints and bend the elbows. Press your hands into the floor as you lift your head and chest off of the floor. You will notice a curve in the low back and possibly one in the mid back, too. Lift only as far as feels good. Hold for a few breaths, then lower down.

7. Eagle pose

This is a balancing exercise with plenty of variations. Begin by standing upright, then lift your arms and bring them down in front of your face with the right elbow under the left, twisting the arms. Then, bend the knees. Lift the right leg and cross it over the left knee, twisting the right leg around the back of the left leg. If you can balance, keep the right toes off of the floor. If you cannot, put the toes on the floor. Twist the arms and legs as tightly as you can – this will open up the spine and joints. Hold for a few breaths, then switch sides.

8. Garland pose

This is a deep squat that feels fantastic on the low back. Squat down with the feet as close to each other as possible, trying to keep the heels on the floor. Lower your rear as close to the floor as possible, without letting it touch. Then, press your elbows into the knees and bring the hands together in prayer position. Stretch the inner thighs with the pressure from your arms and let the rear relax. Hold for a few breaths.

9. Happy Baby pose

Lay on your back. Then, bring your legs toward your chest, bend your knees, and grab your toes. You will look like a baby who has just discovered his feet. Notice your low back opening up. Some people like to rock side to side in this pose. Keep your head on the floor to protect the neck.

10. Legs-up-the-wall pose

This is a relaxing pose that frees up the back. Sit on the floor next to a wall, getting as close as you can. Bring your legs up the wall and lay your upper body (your back) on the floor. Scoot your rear tightly up to the wall so there is little to no space between your rear and the wall. Straighten the legs up the wall, relax your arms, and feet and relax for at least five minutes.

About Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is considered as the best Anchorage chiropractor. Originally from California, he received his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College in Oregon. He is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and volunteering.