When your back aches, do you usually rest it to ease the pain? Believe it or not, moving and stretching is one of the best things you can do for back pain, writes Exercise Physiologist Kathleen Alleaume.
Suffering from back pain can drastically reduce your quality of life. However, you will be amazed at what a few simple stretches can do to reduce the pain in your back and prevent further problems from occurring. These five simple stretches can be done on a daily basis. If it hurts to perform any of them, do not continue. As always, speak to your doctor before starting any exercise regime for back pain, or seek advice from a physiotherapist (www.physiotherapy.asn.au).
Get down on all fours, knees under hips and hands under shoulders. Start with your head, neck and back in alignment.
Inhale and arch your back while contracting your stomach muscles in towards your spine. Allow your head and chin to tilt forward towards your chest. Hold the position for 10 seconds.
Exhale and curve your back in the opposite direction, pushing your chest towards the floor. Tilt your head and chin upward. Hold for 10 seconds.
Repeat five times.
Knee to chest
Lie on your back with your legs straight out.
Bend your right knee. Place your hands around your right knee to slowly bring it in to your chest. Keep your left leg relaxed and comfortable.
Hold for 15–20 seconds. Slowly lower your right leg back to the starting position.
Repeat with your left leg.
Half cobra position
Lie face down, with your legs extended and together, toes pointing backward and your forehead on the floor.
Place the palms of your hands and forearms parallel to your shoulders and head.
Slowly lift your head and chest (only up to your navel) up from the floor, looking straight ahead.
Hold for 10–30 seconds. Gently lower yourself back to starting position
Sit on a chair, keeping your back straight and your feet on the floor.
Lean forward in the chair, bringing your chest gently down to your knees while reaching for the floor with your hands.
Hold for 15–20 seconds, then come back up slowly (one vertebra at a time) to a normal sitting position.
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides.
Keeping your feet on the floor, slowly lower your knees to the right side and turn your head to the left.
As you move your knees and head, your hips will come off the floor, and your lower back will twist. Hold for five seconds.
Repeat on the left side. Start out with small movements, until you know how far you can comfortably twist from side to side.
Tips to prevent back pain
This improves posture and strengthens the muscles that support the spine. Work towards 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every day, such as walking, cycling or swimming.
Practise good posture
Consider your posture, especially when seated for long periodsof time. Don’t slump, keep your back upright and use support where necessary (such as a lumbar support cushion or footstool) and take regular breaks (at least once an hour) to change the position of your joints and loosen your muscles. Include a short walk and a few stretches.
Lift the smart way
If you are picking up a heavy load or a toddler, squat down and lift by using your legs, keeping your back straight.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Being overweight puts extra strain on your back.
Sleep on your side
Use pillows that support your head and neck. Also try a pillow between your knees for support.
Exercises to avoid
Standing toe touches put greater stress on your spine and can overstretch lower back muscles and hamstrings, which may aggravate back pain further.
Sit-ups may also put pressure on the discs in your spine, but good abdominal strength can alleviate a lot of stress off the lower back. Strengthen your abdominal muscles with crunches only.