Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints of Americans. The Mayo Clinic states that “most people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives.” Lower back pain affects sedentary people as well as highly-trained athletes. Even those with a regular yoga practice may suffer from lower back pain!
Lower back pain can range in severity from a nagging lower back ache to debilitating pain that prevents you from working and from doing the things that you enjoy in your life. Some people have muscular tension while others have vertebrae abnormalities or bulging discs.
A well-developed yoga class sequenced by an experienced yoga therapist can help you cope with and perhaps even overcome your lower back pain.
The 5 specific stretches and stabilizing poses shown below may help you with your lower back pain. Aim to complete all 5 poses daily. Once you have established the new habit, you can add to your routine. Check out last week’s blog to work towards eliminating your symptoms.
These 5 exercises are appropriate for anyone suffering with lower back pain:
Warm up your spine with very gentle cat/cow movements. This is intended as a motion exercise, not a stretch. So don’t worry about pushing to the end ranges of your flexibility, especially if you experience any pain. Focus on your breath and find a suitable pain-free range of motion.
Inhale, drop your belly down to the ground and slightly look up to the ceiling. Exhale and round your spine up to the ceiling like an angry cat. Gently push away from the ground. Repeat for 5-6 cycles of breath.
For those with severe chronic lower back pain, it can be painful to sit and stand. But everyone has to eventually sit down to use the bathroom! Practice abdominal bracing and leg strength with Chair Pose.
Perform slow, partial squats. Stand with your feet hip width apart, arms to side with palms up. Inhale and brace your core. Sit the pelvis back and keep the weight in your heels sitting almost to touch the chair behind you but staying pain free. Come up and “spread the floor” using your butt muscles. Think of pulling your hips forward. During the ascent, extend your arms in front. Keep your spine neutral. The spine has no motion.
Spare your spine by maintaining an upright torso during your hamstring stretches. NEVER curl forward if you have chronic lower back pain – this can exacerbate your symptoms.
Place your foot on a chair, stand upright and slightly bend the standing knee. If you have the flexibility, you can slightly lean forward from the hips to stretch the hamstring more.
Stretching the Psoas
Most people with chronic lower back pain also have tight psoas muscles. Hip stretching and other range of motion exercises help release the psoas and iliacus, but poor technique can lead to lower back compression. It’s important to maintain an upright torso while performing this psoas stretch.
Come into a lunge, slightly bend the back knee and feel a stretch in the front of your hip. To enhance the stretch, reach your arm up.
Spine stability is the most important aspect of overcoming your lower back pain. The bird dog pose helps strengthen your abdominal muscles and your back extensor muscles.
Start on your hands and knees with hands under shoulders and knees directly under hips.
Step 1– simply lift your hand about an inch off the floor. If no pain then progress to Step 2.
Step 2– Raise your hand and knee at the same time about an inch off the floor. If no pain, then progress to Step 3.
Step 3– Lift your arm and your leg at the same time. Keep a neutral spine and abdominal bracing. Push your heel away and make a fist for more muscular engagement. Hold for 6-8 seconds and repeat several times on each side. Remember, there should be no pain!
Keep your spine straight throughout all exercises. Don’t arch your back!
Be patient and stick with the program. Increased function and reduced pain may not occur for 3 months. Consistency is key!
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