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10 Core Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief

Lower back pain is a pesky problem that unfortunately, many of us have experienced at one point or another to some degree.

“Lower back pain is the most common musculoskeletal ailment in the U.S., and can often be mitigated by strengthening the core musculature,” Blake Dircksen, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments New York, tells SELF. “The ‘core’ is a cylinder of abdominal and back muscles that wraps around the body like a corset,” Dircksen explains. (The glutes are also considered a part of the core, since they connect to the pelvis and ultimately the back and abdominal muscles.) As with any muscles, by strengthening them, you will increase the amount of weight your lower back can comfortably move, which means it will be better equipped to handle the same stress from your workouts and everyday life without getting as achey.

“Without a strong core, your body will rely more on your passive structures, such as your ligaments and bones, which places more stress on discs and therefore increases your likelihood of injury,” adds Melanie Strassberg, P.T., D.P.T., clinical director of Professional Physical Therapy in New Rochelle, New York.

In addition to strengthening the core muscles, it’s also important to address any mobility problems, says Jacque Crockford, M.S., C.S.C.S., exercise physiology content manager at American Council on Exercise, which can sometimes be what’s causing pain. If specific movements like twisting or bending or extending your spine feel uncomfortable, there may be mobility (flexibility) issues at play. Doing some gentle stretching might help. (If it gets worse with those stretches, stop and see a doctor.)

When you’re working to strengthen the core, you’ll want to focus on exercises that don’t exacerbate lower back issues. “It’s important to find out which movements (flexion, extension, rotation) cause pain or discomfort and to avoid those movements, while continuing to work into ranges that are not provoking,” Dircksen says. Crockford suggests focusing on exercises that keep the core stable and avoiding twisting movements to avoid exacerbating pain.

As with any sort of pain, it’s crucial to figure out the source so you can properly treat it. Sharp or stabbing pain that extends beyond your low back or is accompanied by symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, could be signs of various other conditions and definitely warrant a trip to the doctor. If you have a history of lower back injuries or disc problems, always see your doctor before trying any new exercise.

But if your lower back pain is more of a general achiness or discomfort, the experts here with suggest adding some core exercises into your routine to strengthen the entire area and better support your back.

Bird Dog

“This move works all of the core musculature and the low-back paraspinals [long muscles that run down the length of your spine] and is a challenging movement to develop stability,” says Dircksen. It also is great for working on balance.

How to do it:

  • Start on your hands and knees in tabletop position with your wrists stacked under your shoulders and your knees stacked under your hips. This is starting position.
  • Extend your right arm forward and left leg back, maintaining a flat back and keeping your hips in line with the floor. Think about driving your foot toward the wall behind you.
  • Squeeze your abs and return your arm and leg to starting position.
  • Continue this movement for 30 seconds. Then, repeat with the other arm and leg.

Tabletop Leg Press

Stokes calls this move a “core connector” because it’s a great exercise to practice engaging your core and really understanding what that feels like. “It’s really good for stability and strength—and it’s one of the first things I do when I get up in the morning,” she adds.

How to do it:

  • Lie face up with your legs raised in a tabletop position (knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips).
  • Contract your abs to press your low back into ground. Crunch up just a few inches and place your hands on the front of your quads.
  • Drive your quads into your hands while simultaneously pressing them away. There should be no visible movement in your body, but you should feel the battle and intense tension in your core.
  • Hold this position.

Glute Bridge

“This move engages your glutes, and your glutes are part of your core,” says Kira Stokes, celebrity trainer, group fitness instructor, and creator of the Stoked Method. Just make sure to only lift your hips to the point where your glutes are engaged, and not so far that you hyperextend your back.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on floor hip-width apart.
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs and push through your heels to lift your hips a few inches off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position for a second, making sure your knees stay straight and don’t collapse in.
  • Slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position.

Dead Bug

“The dead bug works the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and hip flexors, and creates a strong core contraction that gets more difficult the further the legs get away from the hands,” says Dircksen.

How to do it:

  • Lie face up with your arms extended toward the ceiling and your legs in a tabletop position (knees bent 90 degrees and stacked over your hips). This is starting position.
  • Slowly extend your right leg out straight, while simultaneously dropping your left arm overhead. Keep both a few inches from the ground. Squeeze your butt and keep your core engaged the entire time, lower back pressed into the floor.
  • Bring your arm and leg back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side, extending your left leg and your right arm.

Glute Bridge Single-Leg Progression

“Because low back pain may be cause by shortened hip flexors and a psoas muscle that is under stress, exercises like the single-leg bridge and are great for building glute strength and lengthening the hip flexors,” says Crockford.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your back with your hands at your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on floor hip-width apart.
  • Lift your right leg and grab the back of your thigh with both hands. Gently pull your right knee toward your chest and move your left foot towards the center of your body (by just a step or two). This is the starting position.
  • Squeeze your glutes and abs and push through your left heel to lift your hips a few inches off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold this position for a second.
  • Slowly lower your hips to return to the starting position.
  • Do all your reps on one side, and then repeat on the other side.

Forearm Plank

“This is an advanced full-body/core exercise. You must maintain a slight pelvic tilt at all times, while also squeezing your glutes and thighs and maintaining your shoulders over your elbows,” says Strassberg.

How to do it:

  • Rest your forearms on the floor, with your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and hands facing forward so that your arms are parallel.
  • Extend your legs out behind you and rest your toes on the floor. Your body should form one straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
  • Squeeze your entire core, your glutes, and your quads, and tuck your butt under a little to keep your lower back straight. Make sure you are not dropping your hips or hiking your butt up toward the ceiling.
  • Position your head so that your neck is in a neutral position and your gaze is on your hands.
  • Hold this position.

Side Plank

“This move works the transverse abdominis, the obliques, the rectus abdominis, the quadratus lumborum [a deep core muscle in the back], and the hip abductors. It’s a truly beneficial exercise to the back,” says Karen Joubert, D.P.T., owner of Joubert Physical Therapy in Beverly Hills.

How to do it:

  • Place your left hand on the floor, directly underneath your left shoulder. Extend your legs so that your body is in one long line, and stack your right foot on top of your left.
  • Engage your core and your butt. Lift your right arm up toward the ceiling and look up toward your right hand.
  • Hold this position, and then repeat on the other side.
  • Try doing 4 sets of 30 second holds, working up to a full three-minute hold.

Reverse Lunge

Reverse lunges are great, especially if forward lunges hurt your knees.

How to do it:

  • Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your hands on your hips (as pictured) or behind your head.
  • Step back (about 2 feet) with your left foot, landing on the ball of your left foot and keeping your heel off the ground.
  • Bend both knees to create two 90-degree angles with your legs.
  • In this positioning, your shoulders should be directly above your hips and your chest should be upright. Your right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your right knee should be stacked above your right ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.
  • Push through the heel of your right foot to return to standing.

Forward Lunge

Lunges are a simple exercise that builds glute strength and engages your abdominal muscles in a stable, neutral position.

How to do it:

  • Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Put your hands on your hips (as pictured) or behind your head.
  • Step forward (about 2 feet) with your right foot, and plant it firmly on the ground.
  • Bend both knees to create two 90-degree angles with your legs.
  • In this positioning, your shoulders should be directly above your hips and your chest should be upright. Your right shin should be perpendicular to the floor and your right knee should be stacked above your right ankle. Your butt and core should be engaged.
  • Push through your right foot to return to standing.

Clamshell

“This exercise strengthens the glutes, in particular the gluteus medius, which helps with lifting our legs out to the side [and stabilizing the pelvis and hips],” says Joubert.

How to do it:
-Lie on your left side with your elbow bent. Use your left hand to prop up your head.

  • Stack your right leg and foot on top of your left, and bend your knees to form a 45-degree angle. Place your right hand on your hip or lightly on the floor in front of you for balance. This is the starting position.
  • Slowly lift your right knee up toward the ceiling, keeping your feet touching. Use your glutes to initiate the movement, and squeeze them as you lift.
  • Lower your right leg back to meet the left.

SOURCE: https://www.self.com/gallery/core-exercises-for-lower-back-pain-relief


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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19

Dear Patients:

Our patients, employees and family are our top priority at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

We ask you to not visit any of our locations if you have symptoms such as fever, sneezing, coughing and possible shortness of breath.

Please cancel your appointment and re-schedule once you are feeling better and are no longer suffering with symptoms.

Only non-symptomatic patients will be seen. No exceptions.

Accompanying family members – including children – are asked to remain in the waiting area and will not be allowed to enter the exam rooms.

During this time of high concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) we are taking extra precautions to maintain the highest possible standards of safety and cleanliness. Please be advised that we are carefully following recommendations from both the CDC and WHO and are here to help guide you through this time if needed.

Some steps we are taking to keeping safe:

  1. We know how important cleanliness is and always maintain the highest standards of cleanliness. To further offer you peace of mind, we have increased the frequency of the cleaning of our office.
  2. Rest assured that hand washing is strictly followed. Hand sanitizer is available to all staff and patients.
  3. Additionally, if you have recently traveled to a country with high rates of the coronavirus or have been on a cruise, please reschedule your visit for at least 14 days from your return date. We will gladly accommodate your needs to reschedule. At that time, a telehealth interface can be arranged if necessary.

Find up-to-date and accurate information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and feel free to reach out with questions.

- Your team at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

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