As a Nurse Practitioner and someone with chronic back pain, I get asked all the time: How can I relieve my back pain? And the answer is that it depends on where your back is hurting. There are different exercises you can do to help relieve your back pain depending on which area is hurting. Keep reading to learn about my best moves for back pain relief.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the lumbar area, or lower back is the most common site of back pain. About 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point during their life. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading cause of missed workdays.
Chronic back pain is defined as pain that lasts for 12 weeks or longer even after the initial cause has been treated. There are many reasons for chronic back pain and luckily there are some stretches you can do to help relieve your back pain. Stretching is also a great way to improve your flexibility.
To do the cobra pose, you need to lie face-down on the floor. You’ll want to stretch your feet and legs so that the top of your feet are touching the floor. Bring your hands in towards your back so that they are under your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your body. Then, you slowly straighten your elbows as you raise your upper body up off the floor. Arch your back and look up. You can hold this stretch for as long as you need.
The child’s pose is another stretch that you can do to help with back pain. This pose stretches several muscles in your back and can even stretch your ankle area. To do the child’s pose you start by kneeling on the floor and sit on your heels. Next, you will open your knees about as wide as your hips. Slowly bend over towards your thighs. Your chest should be resting on your thighs. Stretch out your arms – either along each side with your palms facing up or out in front of you with our palms resting on the floor. Hold this pose for up to a minute.
Stretching is also important for the upper back. Many people carry stress in their upper back and shoulders. You might be sitting at your desk or using your laptop and notice that you have your shoulders hunched up – I know I do! Thankfully there are ways to stretch out those muscles and relieve stress.
To do the cat-cow pose, you start on your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders and your knees should be directly below your hips. Keep your knees hip-width apart. To start the cow pose, inhale and drop your belly towards your mat. Lift your chin and gaze up to the ceiling. Hold this pose for up to a minute.
Then you’ll move into the cat pose. As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back. Hold this pose for up to a minute. You can repeat this sequence as often as you like.
Here is what the Cow Pose looks like:
Here what the Cat Pose looks like:
Another great stretch for your upper back are arm reaches. To do this, you will start on your hands and knees. Then you’ll slowly lift one hand and stretch your arm out in front of you. Your hand and arm should be parallel to floor. Your neck should also be parallel to the floor – in other words, don’t raise your head. Hold this pose for 5 seconds and then lower your hand back to the floor. Repeat this sequence with the other arm. You can do this 5 to 10 times (repetitions) on each side. You can also stretch out your opposite leg behind you while you are stretching out your arm. This will provide a deeper stretch.
You can do these stretches every day even if you’re not having upper back pain or lower back pain. Keeping your joints flexible can help ease your pain today and prevent a pain tomorrow.
Until next time ~ Dr. JB Kirby