First Aid for Lower Backs

We are all individuals with different experiences of lower back pain. It would be great to give you five exercises that could cure all types of lower back pain but, because of our individuality, that just isn’t possible.

Prescriptive exercises for lower back pain don’t tap into your specific way of adapting to the movement pattern. It would be rather odd, for example, if you were to take your car to the garage and the mechanic, regardless of the nature of the problem, did the exact same checks.

Below is a pool of exercises for you to try and see which works best for you. If it hurts to do an exercise, stop. Pushing yourself into a painful position can cause further tissue damage and aggravate the issue.

Don’t worry too much about trying to classify lower back pain into conditions such as sciatica, disc problems or muscle overstrain. There is often a mix of all of these elements which, as long as there is no other medical reason to worry about, we can express as mechanical lower back pain.

What is more important is creating movement that eases this mechanical block and stimulates the individual’s self-healing capabilities.

Very often, a patient will describe how their lower back has simply ‘locked up’ and feels as if it is moving as a block.

You can help yourself by trying to re-establish the ability of one body part to move independently of another. This is what I am trying to achieve with these exercises.

Movement Exploration: Side-lying

1. Lie on your side, with a pillow under the head and both knees bent up. Extend the uppermost leg to straighten it out and then bring the knee up towards the abdomen whilst securing the base of the spine so that only your hip is moving freely. Don’t block the movement but simply invite the hip to move alone without the need for the pelvis to join in.

2. Now that you can dissociate the hip movement from the pelvis, let the pelvis and base of the spine follow the flexion impulse as the hip comes up into flexion.

3. Return to the original side-lying position with both legs bent at the hips and knees. Gently flex your head forwards and down to open up the cervical spine.

4. Now combine the cervical spine flexion with the hip and pelvic flexion.

VIDEO: Side-lying simple lower back exercises →

Movement Exploration: Supine Lying (lying on the back)

1. Lie on your back with the knees bent up and head supported by a pillow or cushion. Very gently slightly exaggerate the lumbar hollow of your lower back and then tip back GENTLY. You are simply rocking back and forth on the sacrum (the curved bone at the tail end of your spine). You don’t want to forcibly engage the abdominal muscles. Remember, like a jammed drawer in a chest of drawers, you need to go in the direction it likes first and then return to free the drawer. After several repetitions, rest and just take a few breaths allowing your lower back to settle.

2. Lying as above in the supine position and with one hand resting on the lower abdomen, gently reach up with the other hand, leaving the rib cage behind. Don’t fix the abdomen but continue to breathe naturally. Return the first arm and now reach up with the other hand. The secret is to keep your lower back relaxed as you move another body part.

VIDEO: Supine simple lower back exercises →

If the above exercise was helpful, try the same in a sitting position

Movement Exploration: Sitting

1. Allow your tail bone (or sacrum) to roll gently down into the seat and then lift again. Once more, keep the abdominal effort as little as possible. This is NOT a full pelvic tilt but a gentle exploration.

2. Imagine that you have a soft football-sized ball within the abdomen. Try to roll your rib cage over the ball side to side and back and forth. Let it settle and then breathe into the back of the rib cage. Feel the rib cage soften and use relaxed breathing.

VIDEO: Sitting pelvic roll →

VIDEO: Sitting pelvic shift →

Movement Exploration: With a Pilates Ball

1. If you have access to a Pilates ball, lie chest down over the ball. From here, roll back allowing your knees to bend and let your lower back gently round.

2. Now push away through your toes taking a little weight into the hands and up through the shoulders but feeling supported by the ball so that the lower rib cage area gently arches. Roll back and forth between these two positions.

3. Explore rolling further back to roll the ball up your knees OR, when fully extended, looking gently over one shoulder to curve your spine like a banana one way and then the other.

For more information on lower back pain or to book a FREE video consultation, please call Hugh Ruxton on 01746 761050.

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