Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability all over the world, says the World Health Organization.
In the United States, low back pain is one of most common complaints. In fact, the American Chiropractic Association states that 31 million Americans, or two-thirds of the population, suffer from low back pain at any given time and approximately 37 percent do not seek professional help for pain relief.
While back pain is a common health issue among middle-aged and elderly people, it can happen to anyone in today’s lifestyle. It is mostly caused by poor posture, or due to sprains or or a pinched or irritated nerve.
People usually rely on over-the-counter pain medications to get rid of the problem but it is a temporary fix. Moreover, most medications have side effects.
To help deal with back pain, you need to remain active as it will facilitate faster recovery. In fact, a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise will help keep your back healthy and strong. You can try certain exercises and yoga poses to help strengthen your backache. Simple activities like swimming and walking can also help relieve the pain and prevent further episodes.
Here are some effective exercises and yoga poses to relieve you of the pain in your back.
1. Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Downward-Facing Dog is a classic yoga pose that primarily targets the large muscles that form your lower back (back extensors). Thus, it helps support, lengthen and strengthen your back muscles.
- Begin on your hands and knees, your hands slightly in front of your shoulders.
- Lift your knees away from the floor (as if going into a push-up), and your hips upward toward the ceiling.
- Relax your neck muscles and look toward your thighs.
- Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Gently release to your starting position.
- Repeat the pose 3 to 5 times daily.
This is the most useful posture that stretches and decompresses your entire spine, thus ensuring improved blood circulation.
Caution: Skip the pose if you have severe carpal tunnel syndrome or are in late-term pregnancy. Also, those with an injury to the back, shoulders or arms must not practice this pose.
2. Child Pose
The Child pose is an active stretch that helps elongate and align the spine. It works as a great de-stressor by taking pressure off the lower back, thus relieving tense muscles.
- Kneel down and sit back on your glutes or heels.
- Leave your arms loose by your sides or stretch them out straight.
- Exhale and slowly lean forward until your forehead touches the floor and your torso rests on your thighs.
- Hold this position for 5 to 10 deep breaths.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 to 15 times for a good, soothing stretch.
Caution: Pregnant women and those with recent or chronic injury to the knees should not practice this pose.
3. Cat and Cow Stretch
Ideally a warm-up pose for your spine, the Cat and Cow stretch works wonders for an achy, sore back. While stretching the back and the torso, it also helps massage and loosen the muscles in and around the spine. It helps keep your spine limber and fluid.
- Get on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
- Position your arms directly below your shoulders, keeping them straight.
- Slowly look up, inhale and slightly arch your back.
- Then as you exhale, round your back by bringing your naval up toward your spine and gazing at your belly.
- Repeat this 5 to 10 times, flowing from arching (Cat pose) to rounding (Cow pose).
- Do this daily to stretch your spine in both directions.
Alternating between the Cat and Cow poses helps ease tension and relax the muscles by bringing the spine into a neutral position.
Finish with the Child pose, this is called counter-pose. To avoid overstraining, back bends should always be followed by a forward bend.
Caution: Those with neck injuries should not drop the head forward or backward, instead keep it in line with the torso. Pregnant women and those with back injuries should skip the Cat pose.
4. Half Lord of the Fish Pose
The Half Lord of the Fish pose is one of the best poses for correcting all your spine problems at the very base level. It exercises and massages the superficial muscles of the spine to the depth and adjusts distorted vertebrae, thus increasing spinal circulatory activities.
- Sit with your spine straight.
- Stretch your legs out in front of you.
- Fold your right leg over your left leg (left heel against the right perineum).
- Interlock your right ankle against your left knee.
- Twist your torso to the right.
- Hold your toe with your left hand and exhale slowly for 3 to 4 seconds.
- Switch sides and follow the same steps.
Caution: Those with a spine or back injury must practice this pose only under the supervision of an expert.
5. Standing Forward Fold
Also called the Upward Forward Bend, this is another effective yoga pose that helps lengthen the hamstrings and back muscles, thus reducing tension in the vertebrae and easing any sort of pain.
- Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Exhale and gently bend forward, with your arms down toward the ground.
- Let your head hang and grab onto opposite elbows to lock your arms.
- Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
- Repeat at least 3 to 5 times.
- Do this exercise once daily.
Make sure you do not bend your knees. Do not worry if you cannot reach all the way to the floor initially. Just stop wherever you feel a bearable stretch in your hamstrings.
Caution: Those who have had recent back or knee surgery must avoid this exercise.
6. Locust Pose
The Locust pose is another effective yoga pose to get rid of back pain quickly and easily. It helps strengthen and lengthen the muscles around the spine (erector spinae and multifidus), thus correcting your posture and reducing back pain. It also helps relieve sciatica pain.
- Lie on your abdomen in a straight line, with your toes pointing toward the back.
- Keep your arms relaxed alongside your body, palms up.
- Exhale and slowly lift your legs straight up, as far as possible. Make sure you do not bend your knees.
- Stay for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then release with an exhalation.
- Take a few breaths and repeat 1 or 2 times more, if you like.
If you cannot do both the legs together, you can start with lifting one leg at a time. After some practicing with alternating the leg lifts, you can continue with both legs together.
Caution: Cardiac patients and pregnant women must avoid this posture. Also, if you suffer from a neck injury, do not raise your upper body. Lifting the legs and keeping the rest of the body grounded will be effective.
7. Legs Up the Wall Pose
One of the most nourishing and calming poses, the Legs Up the Wall pose helps relax the lower back muscles and relieve mild backaches. It also drains off excess stagnant fluid from the ankles and feet, thus soothing them.
- Lie on your back.
- Scoot your buttocks all the way up to a wall, as close as you can.
- Swing your legs up the wall (feet point toward the ceiling) to form a 90-degree angle.
- Hold the position for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Do this exercise daily. You may place a pillow or cushion under your butt for comfortable positioning.
Caution: Menstruating women must avoid practicing this exercise. Those with severe eye troubles like glaucoma must skip this sort of positioning.
8. Sphinx Pose
The Sphinx yoga pose helps strengthen the spine, lower back, shoulders and legs. It improves blood circulation in and around your spine, thus improving mobility and relieving stress and pain.
- Lie down on your stomach with your toes flat and resting on the floor.
- Align your elbows under your shoulders and prop yourself up on your forearms.
- Keep your legs close together, with your feet and heels lightly touching each other.
- Slowly, take a deep breath and keeping your naval on the floor, lift your head, chest and abdomen.
- Breathe and slowly pull your torso back with the help of your arms.
- Stay for 5 to 10 breaths, then exhale and slowly release your belly and lower your torso and head to the floor.
- You can repeat once or twice more, if you are comfortable.
Caution: Those with a chronic back injury and headache must not practice this pose.
9. Supine Hamstring Stretch
The supine hamstring stretch is an effective exercise that relieves discomfort in your lower back and also eases sciatica. It helps lengthen the thigh muscles to relieve pressure off the lower back and alleviate the pain.
- Lie down on your back.
- Bend your right knee into your chest.
- Place a strap or a towel around the ball of your foot.
- Straighten your right leg toward the ceiling, while keeping your left leg straight out on the floor.
- Press out through both heels.
- Hold the position for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Switch to the other leg and follow the same process.
- Finish with holding your knees to your chest.
If you feel strain on your lower back, you may bend your left knee and place your foot on the ground in a resting position.
Caution: Those with chronic injury in the neck must avoid practicing this exercise.
10. Palm Tree Pose
The Palm Tree pose is one of the most effective exercises for relieving back pain. It helps stretch the spine vertically, correcting your posture and thus relieving back pain.
- Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your spine and neck straight, and your chin drawn in.
- Interlock your fingers with your palms facing outwards.
- Raise both your arms and heels up simultaneously.
- Rise on your toes and inhale for 2 seconds.
- Maintain the pose while holding your breath for 5 seconds.
- Rotate your arms backwards and downward.
- Simultaneously, lower your heels and return to the starting position.
- Do this at least 10 to 15 times daily, depending upon your ability.
You can also twist and bend on both sides, keeping your torso firm and erect.
Caution: Those suffering from a hernia or cervical pain are advised not to practice this yoga pose.