3 Home Stretches to Help Your Low Back Pain

Low back pain accounts for a tremendous amount of healthcare in the US. Every year, the debilitating effects of scoliosis, osteoporosis, and even just the normal arthritic changes that come with age send hundreds of thousands to the doctors’ offices and the hospital. Low back pain can cause people to lose the freedom of mobility, and can severely impact the quality of their lives.

The good news is that while more than half a million people opt for back surgery every year, most lower back issues can be prevented or alleviated by a committed regimen of strengthening and stretching. An ounce of prevention is worth tens of thousands of dollars worth of cure in the case of those all-too-common lower lumbar miseries. Here are a three exercises recommended for seniors to reduce pain, strengthen key muscles, and keep you out of the doctor’s office.

The Leg Raise

You have probably heard a lot about strengthening your “core”. Made up of the abdominal, pelvic, and gluteal muscles, core strengthening is an important base for stability in seniors. Strong core muscles help support other muscular efforts, and can also help you prevent falls. One core activity that helps with low back pain is the Leg Raise, which enhances abdominal strength while simultaneously stretching the muscles around the lumbar spine.

1) Lie flat on your back on a stable surface, such as a firm mattress or the floor.
2) Lift one leg in the air and bend it toward your chest at a 90 degree angle.
3) Hold that position for a count of five to ten seconds, then slowly return the leg to its resting position.
4) Continue alternating each leg up to ten cycles.

The Back Extension

Prolonged periods of sitting can cause severe low back pain in elders. The Back Extension is a stretching exercise that reverses the pressure imposed by the seated position and directly works the muscles attached to the lumbar spine. This particular maneuver is especially helpful with reducing low back and associated leg pain induced by walking.

1) Lie on your stomach on a comfortable (but not too soft) surface.
2) Push up onto your elbows to elevate your upper body and gently flex your spine. Try to hold this position for about five to ten seconds.
3) Lower your body back down to rest for few seconds and repeat the exercise for a total of ten cycles.

The Cat-Cow

Spinal flexibility is another critical component of pain-free mobility. The Cat-Cow stretching exercise is an excellent tool to regain spinal muscle tone and lumbar flexibility. It is a seated exercise, and so is especially helpful for people who have severely limited mobility that impedes other types of exercises.

1) Start in a seated position with both feet on the floor.
2) With your hands on your hips, stretch your shoulders back and head upward to make the spine form a gently arch. This is the “cow” position. Push your abdomen forward until you feel the tug on your lumbar spine muscles.
3) Next you will switch to the “cat” position, in which you will stretch your back the opposite way. Roll your shoulders forward and push your spine outward, like a cat arching its back. Simultaneously flex your chin toward your chest as much as possible to stretch the upper back.
4) Alternate the “cat” and “cow” maneuvers for ten cycles.

The key word to success when taking on a new exercise regimen is “committed”. These methods work best when they are repeated at least three times per week. As always, if you are experiencing worsening or debilitation back pain, discuss your symptoms with your doctor before undertaking new activities.

About Paul Fiscus

Paul Fiscus is the director of Maplewood of Sauk Prairie.