Whether it's forcing you to modify workouts, preventing you from picking up your kids or grandkids with ease, or making everyday activities like tying your shoes a challenge, low back pain can range from mildly annoying to significantly debilitating. According to the National Institutes of Health, 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes. Of those affected, about 20 percent develop chronic low back pain lasting a year or more. If you're experiencing low back pain, know that there are millions of others out there just like you.
The causes of low back pain range from muscle weakness to injury or disease. If you have been struggling with low back pain, your first step should be a visit to your primary care provider. Once they diagnose the cause of the pain, you can work together to develop a treatment plan.
Back pain tends to be more common in those who are not physically fit. When muscles are weak or tight, injury from doing something as simple as picking up something off the floor becomes more likely to occur. Many times, there's no dramatic story to tell about why you can't get off the couch; often, it's a simple, everyday movement that puts you out of commission.
Although your doctor will be the best resource in identifying the specific issue, there are a few common causes of low back pain that can be addressed through targeted exercises designed to strengthen and stretch those areas. Unless indicated, perform each exercise for one to three sets and eight to 12 repetitions per set.
1. Weak Core
Your core is the set of muscles surrounding the lower back, including the abdominals, obliques, latissimus dorsi and erector spinae. If any of these muscles are weak, the others take on more work to compensate. A strong core, consisting of muscles, tendons and ligaments is like a natural back brace. If the muscles are weak and, therefore, the brace is loose, it will not support the back like it needs, which can result in pain or even injury. To strengthen the core, incorporate these exercises into your strength training routine.
Lie on your stomach with palms on the floor under the shoulders, feet and legs together, and toes down. Lift your body up into a pushup position so that your arms are straight and weight is balanced evenly between hands and toes, keeping the body as straight as possible. Hold for 30 seconds, eventually working up to one to three minutes.