At any given time, approximately 31 million Americans experience lower back pain. If you’re part of this group, you might assume that the best way to combat your pain is to avoid exercise to minimize the amount of strain you’re placing on your low back. It’s true that, in the case of acute injuries, rest is generally best. If you’re dealing with chronic aches and pains, though, spending too much time sitting or lying down could be making things worse. You might be better off doing specific mobility exercises for lower back pain.
Now, before I get into an explanation of my favorite lower back pain exercises, I want to give the obligatory caveat that I’m not a doctor. I’m a mere personal trainer, and I cannot diagnose or offer specific treatment plans for those dealing with back pain. My goal here is to just talk about what I’ve done in the past when I’m dealing with back pain, as well as share some knowledge I’ve picked up through my personal trainer training. Always talk to your doctor before you start any kind of training/rehabilitation program.
Okay, now that I’ve got all the caveats out of the way, let’s just jump into it. Here are five awesome mobility exercises for lower back pain you can try today.
1. Active Lunge
Often, when you’re dealing with pain in a particular area, you don’t need to look directly at the painful area. Instead, you need to look above or below it. For example, if you have pain in your knee, you might have tightness below in your calves or ankles or above in your quads or hamstrings.
In the case of the lower back, it might not be the back itself that’s the problem, but rather the hip flexors. If you have tight hip flexors, that can alter your posture and cause you to place an excessive amount of strain on your lower back. To combat tight hip flexors, one of my favorite exercises is the active lunge.
To do this exercise, start in a high lunge position with your back straight and shoulders stacked over hips. Squeeze your glutes to tuck your hips under and initiate a stretch in your hip flexor. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, then release and repeat. Do 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps per side.
2. Thread the Needle
If you have trouble with your lower back, the issue could also be a lack of thoracic mobility. The thoracic region of your spine is comprised of the vertebrae that make up the middle portion of your back. A lot of people deal with tightness and a lack of mobility in this area due to the fact that they aren’t doing much, if any, rotational movement throughout the day. This poor mobility and tension here can result in pain in the lower back, too.
To do this exercise, start on all fours. Reach up toward the ceiling with one arm while keeping the other flat on the floor. Then, bring that arm back down under your torso so you’re reaching toward the opposite side of the room. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, then reach back up to the ceiling. Do 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps per side.
3. 90-90 Hip Switches
Pain in the lower back could also be due to tight glutes. Like tightness in the hip flexors, tightness in the glutes can alter your posture and cause you to put too much strain on your lower back.
For this mobility exercise, start in a 90-90 position. This means sitting with one knee bent at a 90-degree angle in front of you while the other is bent in a 90-degree angle behind you. You might need to prop yourself up on a yoga block, firm pillow, or book while doing this if your hips are very tight and you find yourself leaning too far to one side.
Once you’re in a comfortable position, hinge forward at your hips while keeping your back straight. Hold this position for a second, then sit back and rotate so the knee that was in front is now behind and vice versa. Hinge at your hips again and lean forward to stretch the glute before switching back to the other side. Do 2-3 sets of 10 switches.
4. Downward Facing Dog to Plank
I love this dynamic exercise for addressing the upper back and thoracic area along with the hamstrings and hips, all of which can contribute to lower back pain when they’re tight and lacking good mobility.
To do this exercise, start in a downward facing dog position. From here, shift your weight forward and lower your hips until you’re in a plank position (make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and your body is forming a straight line from your heels to your head). Hold for a second, then lift your hips back up so you’re in a downward facing dog position once more. Repeat 8-10 times and complete 2-3 sets.
5. Glute Bridges
Sometimes, the problem isn’t that your glutes are tight, but rather that they’re under-developed. If your glute muscles are weak, you might be more prone to postural issues and could end up putting excessive strain on your lower back when you stand, walk, or perform other movements. Weak glutes are especially common for people who work office jobs or sit for long periods of each each day.
One of my favorite exercises for strengthening the glutes is the glute bridge. This exercise targets your glutes and hamstrings while also give your hip flexors a bit of a stretch.
To do these, start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Bring your heels in close to your glutes so that you can touch or almost touch them with your fingertips. From here, push down into the floor with your heels and lift your glutes off the ground. Hold this position for a couple of seconds while squeezing the glutes, then lower back down and release. Repeat 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps.
If you can’t figure out how to do a particular exercise based on the written description, never fear! Here’s a video demonstrating each one for you!
Try These Mobility Exercises for Lower Back Pain Today
There you have it — five mobility exercises for lower back pain that I love. If you’re dealing with aches and pains and aren’t sure what to do, these exercises might help. Give them a try today to see what works for you!
Do you struggle with lower back pain? If so, what has worked for you to help you manage it?