You may feel like resting, but moving is good for your back. Exercises for lower back pain can strengthen back, stomach, and leg muscles. Depending on the cause and intensity of your pain, some exercises may not be recommended and can be harmful.
Exercise is often good at later stages of injury but not when you are acutely inflamed and swollen – get advice from your chiropractor about which exercises to avoid.
Some back and abdominal exercises are best to avoid. While some are good when you are in advanced stages of training, they are mostly stressful to the average person and can cause more injury.
These happen to be the most popular and common exercises seen in the gym but they are often performed badly can do not exercise the areas you think they are, possibly even doing more damage with repetition over time. Let’s list them and then discuss them with some video to be added later.
Exclude These Exercises
1. Situps and Crunches
Although you might think sit-ups can strengthen your core or abdominal muscles, most people tend to use muscles in the hips when doing sit-ups. Sit-ups may also put a lot of pressure on the discs in your spine.
They are often pegged as being dangerous as the hip flexors pull forward on the spine against the spinal extensors that are generally weak in most people. It is thought to be even responsible for causing low back problems. Crunches with the legs are bent are probably a bit safer but the movement must be slow and controlled.
Current research indicates that sit-ups places an extremely high amount of stress on the intervertebral discs in the lower spine . This causes repetitive trauma to the spine.
Professor Stuart McGill of Waterloo University in Canada says in his book Low Back Disorders, “Given that the sit-up imposes such a large compression load on the spine, regardless of the leg’s being bent or straight, the issue is not which type of sit-up should be recommended. Rather, sit-ups should not be performed at all by most people.”
2. Low back hyperextension
Uncontrolled, ballistic hyperextension of the low back can damage the lumbar spine and discs. It is not so much that the exercise is bad for you, it’s more how they are done. Hyperextensions do use the lower erector spinae muscles and will strengthen them but correct form and technique is essential or you risk injury.
Hyperextensions work the muscles that take you from a flexed spine, as in the contracted position of a crunch, to spinal extension. The key to low back training, especially with hyperextensions, is to move slowly and to only return to a straight back position or slightly hyperextended.
When you move slowly you’ll be much less likely to injure yourself and it’ll allow you to feel the exercise more effectively. I also suggest squeezing your glutes and hamstrings throughout the entire movement to really engage them.
3. Trunk twists
The lying torso or trunk twist is another exercise that just about everyone, from beginners to personal trainers, seem to use as a basic in their abs workout or core training program. The move is done by lying on the floor, with your legs up, and twisting your hips from side to side. There are two variations of this exercise: One version is done with bent knees, while the other, tougher, version is done with straight legs.
Rotation of the lumbar spine is more dangerous than beneficial, and rotation of the pelvis and lower extremities to one side while the trunk remains stable or is rotated to the other side is particularly dangerous.
Standing rotational exercises are safer on your back and certainly have more functional carry over to sports than the practice of lying on the ground. This is the reason why trunk rotation without vertical compression may cause disc injury, whereas the same movement performed with compression is significantly safer.
Some examples of upright torso rotation exercises are cable chops, medicine ball twists and medicine ball rotary throws against a concrete wall. You could also sign up for a group boxing or kickboxing class. Each time you punch or kick, you rotate, effectively using all the muscles around your torso.
4. Leg lifts
Leg lifts are sometimes suggested as an exercise to “strengthen your core” or abdominal muscles. Exercising to restore strength to your lower back can be very helpful in relieving pain yet lifting both legs together while lying on your back can make back pain worse. Instead, try lying on your back with one leg straight and the other leg bent at the knee. Slowly lift the straight leg up about 6 inches and hold briefly. Lower leg slowly. Repeat 10 times, then switch legs.
5. Toe Touches
Exercise is good for low back pain — but not all exercises are beneficial. Any mild discomfort felt at the start of these exercises should disappear as muscles become stronger. But if pain is more than mild and lasts more than 15 minutes during exercise, patients should stop exercising and contact a doctor. Some exercises may aggravate pain. Standing toe touches, for example, put greater stress on the disks and ligaments in your spine. They can also overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings.