Sitting for several hours in front of the computer can make your lower back feel like a tight rubber band. This can tax your energy when you do simple tasks, such as climbing stairs or taking out the garbage. Take a 10-minute break away from your desk. Doing exercises that free up the stiffness in your lower back can save you a trip to the chiropractor.
Low-back stiffness can sometimes be caused by tight hip joints rather than the tight muscles in your lower back. When your hip joints are tight and lack mobility, your lower back loses stability and gets too mobile. This can lead to disk hernia or bone spurs in the vertebrae, which causes pain and stiffness, according to Spine Health. Spine stability isn't about doing balancing exercises on a wobble board that makes you look like a circus performer. It is your ability to contract your muscles in your torso -- abs, spine, shoulder girdle -- to protect your spine from excessive movement when you move, Dr. Stuart McGill says.
Start with exercises on the floor to decrease pressure on your lower back, which can help your spine relax and breathe a sigh of relief. These exercises combine hip and leg movements and require you to breathe through your belly. Flexibility expert Ann Frederick, coauthor of "Stretch to Win," suggests three exercises to do after your workout or whenever you need a break from your desk. The knee hug is where you lie on your back on the floor and bring your knees to your chest as close as you can. The hip twist is turning your pelvis to your left and right with your legs bent while lying on the floor on your back. The Child's pose is where you kneel on the floor and sit back onto your heels with your palms on the floor and your arms extended. For each exercise, hold each stretch for six to 10 deep breaths. These exercises should take between five to 10 minutes to learn and perform, depending on whether you do one, two or three sets of each exercise.
Get Up, Stand Up
Don't just exercise and focus on your lower back. Strengthening your core and improving your breathing can decrease low-back stiffness. When the core is weak, your lower back muscles compensate by maintaining constant contraction. Stretching exercises, including sun salutations and windmills, unwind stress from your lower back and hip while improving your balance and breathing. Dr. McGill suggests doing carrying exercises for your core, such as the farmer's walk with one kettlebell or dumbbell and the single-arm bottom-up kettlebell carry.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to addressing low-back stiffness because everyone's body, goals, mentality and exercise experience are different. The exercises that your best friends did to relieve their problem may not be suitable for you. Because there are scores of exercises to do to address your low-back stiffness, consult a qualified exercise professional with a background in sports medicine or corrective exercise. If you have low back or hip pain, check with your health care professional before starting any exercise routine.
- Gray Cook: Expanding on the Joint-by-Joint Approach
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: The Painful Lumbar Spine
- Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick
- Spine-Health: Back Instability Definition
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.