If you exercise, work, sit in a decidedly uncomfortable desk during a class or lift heavy objects, chances are you have experienced lower-back pain. But if a day without lower-back pain seems like the exception, not the rule, it's time to engage in an exercise routine that emphasizes flexibility and strength. Do yourself a favor first -- check with your doctor to make sure your lower-back pain isn't the source of a more serious injury and that you're ready to start working out.
Take a Load Off
Imagine you're running or engaging in step aerobics -- each step you take sends a shock wave up your foot, moving up to your knees and lower back. No matter how young you are, high-impact exercise can add up and lead to back pain. That's why it's OK to embrace low-impact exercise as part of your exercise regimen too. Low-impact exercise includes swimming, bicycling and walking. These exercises strengthen your back and stomach muscles and burn calories without placing too much strain on your lower back. If you're currently doing all high-impact exercise, switch at least one of your training sessions to low impact each week.
Boost Your Back Flexibility
When you experience lower-back pain, your back and surrounding muscles start to tense and tighten. Through slow, gentle stretching, you can work to relieve muscle tension and reduce lower-back pain. One example is the piriformis stretch, which involves lying on your back, crossing your right leg over your bent left leg and pulling your legs toward your chest, feeling a stretch in your back and leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and repeat as desired. Stay on your back and extend your legs, lifting your right leg in the air and grasping your hands toward the back of your thigh. Pull your leg toward your chest, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, release and switch to stretch the opposite leg. Repeat these stretches at least once to twice per day to maintain flexibility.
Don't Overdo the Training
While you may be able to stretch on a daily basis, you shouldn't strength train as much. Strength training several days in a row can work against your efforts to relieve lower-back pain. By performing strength-training exercises every other day, you give your body time to rest and build stronger muscle fibers. You also need to be aware of times when you should take a break from overall exercising. If your back pain has moved to your legs or seems to worsen with exercise, it's time to take a rest or call your doctor if the pain persists.
Incorporate Back Pain-Specific Strengtheners
Just before you wrap up your strength-training workout, add a few exercises designed to boost muscle strength and reduce your lower-back pain. These include a pelvic tilt, which involves lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground. Contract your butt and stomach muscles to lift your pelvis off the ground, tilting it toward your head. Hold this position for one to three seconds, then lower your pelvis. Repeat five to 10 times. Another lower-back specific exercise is the partial situp. This exercise involves lying on your back with your knees bent and your hands behind your head. Exhale as you tighten your stomach muscles to lift your shoulders and head off the floor. Inhale as you lower your head and shoulders. Repeat eight to 10 times.
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.