If you’re having trouble with lower back pain, you may think that you need to do back exercises to get your spine in line. In most cases, this won’t help you and can actually increase your pain. Back pain, especially lower back pain, is often caused by poor posture and weak abdominal muscles. If you want to get rid of the pain and feel better, it’s time to focus on your belly and your stance.
If you spend a lot of time hunched over, at a desk for example, your upper back muscles will be overly developed in comparison with your lower back muscles and abdominal muscles. The first thing you need to do to relieve tension and pain in your lower spine is to sit up straight and pull your shoulders back.
If you’re used to hunching and walking or standing with poor posture, this will feel a bit strange at first. However, if you consciously pull your shoulders back and down when you walk, sit, and stand, you’ll force your back into a more upright position. Aligning your back with proper posture will eventually become second nature to you, and doing so, you should notice a distinct decrease in back pain.
With those overdeveloped upper back muscles causing you to hunch over, your lower back muscles will try to balance things out, but they just won’t be able to. Add to that any extra weight and weak muscles around your middle and you’ve got a recipe for major back pain disaster.
If you incorporate a few abdominal exercises into your routine each day, you’ll notice that – as your abs get more toned – you’ll also feel less back pain. Furthermore, standing and sitting with good posture will start to feel more natural to you. If the health benefits aren’t enough to sway you, research indicates that better posture also helps you appear slimmer.
Here are a couple of easy abdominal exercises you can do each day to tighten your tummy and relieve your aching back.
Planks – Lie down on your stomach on the floor. Now, place your feet about shoulder-width apart and get up onto your toes. You’ll be holding your upper body off the floor by either resting on your elbows or on your hands, as if you were about to do a push up. Instead of doing pushups, though, you’re just going to hold that position for 20-30 seconds. When time’s up, you can rest for a few seconds. Repeat this three times every morning or evening. To get even better results, do it twice per day.
Abdominal Crunches – If you’re doing crunches, it’s important to diversify the type. The standard old school crunch that most of us learned as kids can wreak havoc on the spine.
To work your abdominal muscles more safely, lay down flat on the floor, knees bent at 90 degrees and focus on bringing your spine to the ground (try not to arch your back). Place each hand on a leg and work on bringing your chest and head to the ceiling (not your knees), while skimming your hands up your legs. Try 5 sets of 10 to start and work up from there. If you can’t do that many at first, DON’T push it! With any exercise, proper posture is key. Straining or pushing through may only result in more pain.
If you do these exercises regularly and pay attention to your posture, you’ll have a stronger, pain-free spine in no time.