Core Exercises for Back Pain

‚ÄčIf your lower back is painful, you might balk at the idea of exercise. But exercise actually helps relieve pain. In fact, exercise can even prevent lower back pain.

How does exercise help back pain?

Exercise is the best way to build the body's core muscles that support the spine. When these muscles are strong, the spine will be more flexible, less likely to be painful. After an injury, getting back to your normal activities is often the best thing for lower back pain.

With a muscle strain, you'll find that movement relieves muscle spasms and pain following an injury. If pain is intense, physical therapy or a massage can also help. With spinal pain, exercise helps increase spinal mobility and strengthens the muscles around the spine. Exercise also keeps discs lubricated so you can move and bend easily.

Core Strengthening Exercises for Back Pain

While certain exercise are best to relieve lower back pain, some lower back core exercises serve to keep your lower back muscles strong to prevent pain. "Crunches" are never good for the lower back, as they place too much pressure on the lower spine. However, a modified version is good therapy.

Modified Crunches

To relieve pain safely, and strengthen your core abdominal and back muscles, perform these modified crunches instead.  

Starting Position: Lay on your back on an exercise mat or carpeted floor. Bend both legs at the knees; keep feet flat on the floor.

  • Cross your arms, one over the other, on top of your chest. 
  • Slowly take a deep breath in and tighten the muscles of your abdomen. 
  • As you exhale, lift your shoulders off your mat or the floor 
  • Be careful to keep your tailbone and lower back on the floor. Avoid using arms or elbows to lift your head and shoulders. 
  • Hold this position for a count of 3 to 5, then return to the start position. 
  • Rest briefly and repeat 8 to 10 times 

Hamstring Stretch

This exercise is good for strengthening core lower back muscles, as well as the strong supportive muscles of your legs, with this hamstring stretch. Perform these lower back core exercises every other day.

Starting Position: Sit on an exercise mat or carpeted floor. Your legs are extended out in front of you, toes pointing up. Keep your back straight.

  • Bend your left knee and let it fall to the side, bringing your foot toward you, until the foot bottom is against the inside of your right leg. Keep your right leg straight, toes pointing toward the ceiling. 
  • Keeping your back straight, bend slowly forward from your waist. 
  • Bring your chest toward your left knee. Be careful not to jerk or bounce. You'll feel tension behind your knee, in the hamstring muscle. 
  • Stop stretching when you feel this tightness. 
  • Breathe slowly, holding the stretch for a count of 10. 
  • Slowly sit back and relax. 
  • Repeat the stretch with the right leg. 

Core strengthening exercises for lower back pain should be part of your regular routine. It's best to do these exercises inside, in an environment where you can focus on your movements.

Sleeping Position

In addition to doing core exercises to strengthen your core and alleviate lower back pain, you should also pay attention to your sleeping position. If you're doing these lower back core exercises during the day, don't undo all your good work with a bad sleep position.  Flat on your back is the best sleep position. This allows for the natural curvature of the spine and leaves the airway open. To make sure this position truly is the best way to sleep for your neck, however, try not to use a pillow to avoid pushing your neck into too tight an angle.  Also, keep your hips in a comfortable position by keeping your legs straight down, not splayed out, turned out, or one cocked out to the side. All of these variations will throw your hips out of alignment, which can cause hip pain. For more information, check out our blog post on the best sleeping position for back pain.