Back pain is, sadly, all too common in our modern world where so many of us spend all day sitting down.
Even if you have good posture and sit in an ergonomic chair, spending more time seated than standing will take a toll on your lower back.
Here’s the truth: activity and movement are the only truly effective methods of treating and preventing lower back pain. You can sit in the perfect position all day long, but the act of sitting places more strain on your back than you realize.
You need to be proactive and counteract back pain by spending more time moving around your office, home, or wherever you are. Here are some of the best, easiest exercises you can practice at home to help alleviate and prevent back pain and strengthen your back muscles:
Stand and Stretch – This sounds really simple, and it absolutely is! The truth is that just standing up every hour or so will help to stretch out your spinal muscles and get the blood flowing to your legs once more. A few simple stretches—such as side, forward, and back bends—will do wonders to help restore full mobility to your lower back, and can counteract the negative effects of sitting down for so many hours.
Make it a point to stand up every hour on the hour. Spend 2-5 minutes walking around your home or office, stretching your back, and loosening up your back muscles. You’ll find that adding just a little bit more activity to your day can make a world of difference when it comes to combatting back pain!
Toe Touches – Toe touches are a beautifully simple exercise that will stretch your spinal muscles, loosen your joints, and give you a little bit of a workout. Best of all, it requires no weights, nothing at all except a bit of room to move freely.
Stand with your feet spread slightly farther than shoulder width apart. Keeping your knees straight, bend forward to touch your right foot with your left hand, then come back up to upright position. Now bend forward to touch your left food with your right hand, then come up again. Repeat 8-12 times per side. Take the movement slow and focus on the stretch of your side, spinal, and leg muscles as you reach for your toes. You’ll find it’s an amazing way to stay mobile during a long day spent sitting down!
Cat-Cow-Downward Dog – This combination of Yoga poses will help to loosen everything along the posterior hemisphere of your body: your neck, shoulders, back, lower back, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. You can do it on a Yoga mat, carpet, or even just bare floors. Do it barefoot, in your socks, or even in your shoes. It’s highly effective and easy to do anywhere.
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Start on your hands and knees, in a comfortable, balanced position. Begin by arching your back downward and lifting your head as far backward as you can. Feel the stretch for a couple of seconds, then reverse it by bringing your chin to your chest and arching your back as high into the air as possible. This is the Cat-Cow part of the exercise. Repeat it 5 times, then transition into Downward Dog—on your hands and feet, with your butt high into the air, knees straight. Remain in Downward Dog for 15-30 seconds, and you’ll be amazed by how loose your back feels!
Ceiling Reach – This is an excellent movement to help loosen and lengthen your spine after long hours spent sitting hunched over your keyboard, desk, or table. Stand with your feet spread roughly shoulder width apart and your arms by your side. Take in a deep breath, then reach your arms toward the ceiling as high as you can. Imagine reaching with every muscle from your head to your toes, even coming up on your tip toes. Hold for 5 seconds, then return your arms to your sides and relax your body. Repeat 5-10 times.
This movement will stretch you out, help to elongate your spine, and straighten your posture. You’ll find that when you sit back down, you’ll have a much easier time sitting straight with less strain on your lower back.
Torso Twist – This is an exercise you can do sitting down—in fact, you need a chair to help you really lean into the stretch. It’s great if you feel knots forming in your back or your spinal muscles tightening. Spending just a few minutes twisting like this can do wonders to help loosen things up.
Sit a bit forward in your chair with your feet planted flat on the floor. Reach your right arm around in front of you to grip the left armrest, and use your arms to help you twist as far to the left as possible. Twist your entire upper body, from your core to your head. Try to look all the way behind you—that will help to really maximize the stretch to your upper spinal muscles. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, then come back to neutral and twist to the right. Repeat 5-10 times per side.
Forward Bends – If your back feels a bit tight, you can loosen it up with a few forward bends. Stand with your feet spread wide, and place your hands behind your head. Bend slowly forward and go as far down as you can. Hold for a count of 2 in order to maximize the stretch, then come slowly back up to neutral upright position. Repeat the forward bend 15-20 times, until you feel a nice burn in your lower back muscles.
This movement engages your lower back, your hamstrings, and glutes, helping to strengthen and loosen up the muscles around your core. You’ll find it’s incredibly easy, low-impact, and safe to do anywhere, anytime!
These seven exercises will be an amazing addition to your day, helping you to stay loose, fit, and have proper posture. Try to go through all of them at least twice over an eight-hour day spent at your desk. You’ll feel better than ever before!
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