12 Best Exercises for Chronic Low Back Pain
Statistics show that 80% of the population will experience some form of low back pain (LBP) at some point in their lives. Low back pain can occur from work injuries, car accidents, and sports injuries. “Chronic” LBP is a complaint that has been present for at least three months. Studies also show that LBP that exists for more than three months becomes increasingly difficult to resolve.
Thousands of studies have been done on the causes of and treatment of low back pain. A popular topic of these studies involves the effects of stabilization exercises in people with chronic low back pain (cLBP). Studies have shown that participants that engaged in exercise programs using a Swiss exercise ball, and/or floor exercises, reported reductions in pain that were not seen in the patients that didn’t exercise. Studies also showed increased bone density in the groups that exercised and decreases in bone density those that didn’t. Below are the 12 best exercises for chronic low back pain.
Swiss Ball Exercises
Below are four of the 12 best exercises for chronic low back pain. Begin with these Swiss ball exercises (begin with 5-10 reps and increase the reps and hold times as you improve your strength.
1) Sitting pelvic tilts – These can be done with both feet on the floor (you can move to one foot for an added challenge) on the floor while rocking the pelvis front to back and then left to right, or in a circular or “figure-8” manner.
2) Bridge – Start by sitting on the ball and then “walk out” so the ball is between the shoulder blades, keeping your trunk parallel to the floor. Then push your heels into the floor, activating the hip extensors (butt muscles) and then roll back up to a sitting position on the ball. As these get easier, try doing the exercise by raising one leg.
3) Sit-ups – Start by sitting on the ball and roll halfway back, holding it for different lengths of time.
4) See-Saw – Lay down on the ball (facing it) and roll out into a push up position. Position the ball under your pelvis and lift one leg at a time towards the ceiling. Alternate between the left and right legs. As your strength and balance increase, raise both legs to make it more challenging.
Five minutes of ball exercises also equals 35 minutes of floor exercises when focusing on balance or proprioception.
It is a well-known fact that as we age, we lose our “kinesthetic sense”, or balance skills, so incorporating balance is a good idea for any exercise program.
However, the downside of Swiss ball exercises is inconvenience. We don’t always have access to exercise equipment but we can always find some floor. Floor exercises performed on the floor can achieve stronger muscle contractions due to greater stability. Using both floor and ball exercises provides a greater benefits than either type of exercise alone.
Below are 8 great floor core stabilization exercises (try holding for 5-10 seconds, repeating 5-10 times, whatever is tolerated):
1) Pelvic tilts – With the knees bent about 90° and both feet on the floor, flatten your low back against the floor by rocking your pelvis back and then returning to a neutral position.
2) Dead Bug – Laying on your back with hips and knees both bent 90° (like sitting in a chair on your back), straighten out the right arm and left leg simultaneously and then slowly alternate sides.
3) Superman – Lay face down on the floor with arms and legs stretched out (like “Superman” flying). Raise one arm and the opposite leg (i.e. left arm/ right leg) and slowly alternate with the other arm and leg. If you are uncomfortable laying face down, a pillow placed under the waist can help.
4) Bridge – Begin by laying on your back with your knees bent. Lift your buttocks off the ground while pushing your heels into the floor. Make this exercise more challenging by using one leg at a time.
The most important part of any exercise program is consistently.
5) Sit-ups – Start by laying on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your chest towards the ceiling and alternate between coming straight up and by rotating to the left and right.
6) Side Bridge (Plank) – As long as there are no shoulder problems, lay sideways propped up on the elbow closest to the ground while lifting the hips off the floor to a straight body position.
7) Standing squats – These can be done as quarter, half, or full squats (depending on knee pain or problems). These can be made harder by using hand weights and/or with a ball squeezed between the knees. Lunges can also be used to get the same benefits if needed or desired.
8) 4-point Quadruped exercise – While kneeling on all fours, straighten out the right arm and left leg and then alternate. At the same time, suck in your stomach (abdominal hollowing) to stimulate the abdominal muscles.
Commit to doing this exercise program 2 to 3 time per week and if your back pain persists, call our office at (303) 424-7171 for a FREE consultation!