Lower Back Pain Exercises – Heal Yourself at Home

Have you thrown your back out? Here are some lower back pain exercises that will quickly help you heal.

A few months ago, I was pretty busy out in the yard. I had to shovel and spread quite a bit of mulch. Unfortunately for my back, I wasn’t paying that much attention to my posture. I let my lower back get round again and again as I lifted. Day after day this went on, until finally I reached down to pick some weeds and BAM! My back seized up.

Here are some lower back pain exercises that I used to get better in just a week or two.

First, I should note that these exercises are specifically designed to address injuries like disc herniation and bulging disks that can happen when you bend forward and/or sit with a rounded lower back, over and over again. This is a really common cause of lower back pain, but there ARE others. So, if the following situations apply to you, skip these exercises as they may do more harm than good.

Skip these exercises if you:

  • Had your back give out while under a heavy load and think that there is probably some major tissue damage.
  • Have a disorder called spondylolisthesis (if you have this you would most likely already know)
  • Injured yourself while bending back (spinal extension injury)

And, as always, these exercises are provided for educational purposes only. Consult your physician before beginning any new rehabilitation routine.

First, Why Do I Have Lower Back Pain?

The brain causes the muscles in the lower back muscles to lock up and spasm to protect the vulnerable spine and discs. When we bend forward with a rounded lower back, day after day, we put excess stress on the discs. The vertebrae compress along the front of the spine and squeeze the discs toward the back of the spine, much like toothpaste is squeezed from the bottom of a tube towards the opening.

Eventually the discs will become injured and bulge out, pressing onto surrounding nerves. When your brain senses that this is happening, it triggers a back spasm to lock up and protect the spine, preventing any further damage.

These exercises help alleviate lower back pain by accomplishing two things. First they put the disc back into place. Then these movements activate the spine’s supporting muscles, which let the brain know that everything is functioning as it should. Since these muscles are supporting the spine, there is no need for emergency support and the brain can relax the back spasms.

The Routine

  1. MacKenzie Pressups – 10 repetitions
  2. Hip extensions – 8 repetitions x 5 sec hold
  3. Birddogs – 4 repetitions x 10 sec hold
  4. Side bridges – 5 repetitions x 10 sec hold on each side

Afterwards, walk around and let your body feel how your spine’s support muscles and structures are now properly aligned and activated. There will be less need for the brain to trigger the back spasms that cause you pain and stiffness.

MacKenzie Pressups

This exercise squeezes your discs from the back of the spine to the front, alleviating discs that are bulging towards the rear.

Lying down on your stomach with your hands beneath your shoulders, keeping your shoulder blades down and back, slowly arch your back, pushing your chest up while you breathe out. Keep your hips on the floor.

Lower yourself down slowly on your inhale.

Begin gently and only slowly increase your range of motion. This exercise may hurt a little on the first few repetitions. If it doesn’t feel better after 3 or 4 reps, abandon this exercise.

Hip Extension

This exercise lets your brain know that your glutes are working to stabilize your spine.

Lie on the ground with your feet flat on the ground around shoulder width apart, your knees bent at about 90 degrees.

Raise your hips up towards the sky by pushing through your heels and flexing your glutes (butt muscles). Allow all other muscles to remain relaxed.

Keep your hips up with your glutes flexed for 5 seconds, then lower back down steadily. Do 8 reps.

Bird Dogs

This exercise activates the important spinal stabilizers called the multifidus and transverse abdominus, which help with fine stabilization between individual vertebrae.

Down on all fours, keep your hands and knees aligned with each other, as if they were sharing a plank.

Maintaining neutral spine position (flat back, essentially), slowly lift up one leg, straightening it as your heel moves away from your body. Next, keeping your shoulders packed down, raise the opposite arm out at a 45 degree angle (half of 90!). This will activate the often-dormant lower trapezius. Keep your hips stable while you do this exercise, don’t let them shift as you raise your limbs.

Side Bridge / Side Plank

Lying on your side with your feet stacked on top of each other or with one foot placed in front of the other, place your elbow beneath your shoulder. Keep your other hand on your hip or leg.

Flexing your obliques and quadratus lomborum (side abdominal muscles), raise your hips up.

Don’t bend at the waist. In fact, it is a good idea to do this exercise against a wall for the first few times, to allow you to get a feel for proper alignment. You want to be pretty straight, from your head to your feet.

Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat 5 times on right and left sides.

Walk Around

After you complete this circuit, stand up and stroll around, maintaining excellent posture. With any luck, your body should sense that everything is functioning as it should, and that back spasms aren’t needed any longer.

How Often Should I Do This Routine?

Do these lower back pain exercises 2 to 3 times/day when you have just thrown your back out. After you heal, continue to perform this circuit for injury prevention.