Improve Posture and Ease Back Pain with These Exercises

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Research by the National Centre for Health Statistics found that the back is the most prevalent area on the body to experience pain, with 39% of adults in the U.S. suffering back pain in 2019. In fact, the phrase ‘lower back pain’ is searched for 215,000 times per month in the U.S., and ‘stretches for lower back pain’ is searched 48,000 times.  

Clearly, there is a real need for some back pain relief across the United States. Thankfully, fitness experts at Barbend are here to help, offering up various exercises that will improve posture, strengthen the spine, and ultimately help to relieve back pain.  

What factors can contribute to back pain?  

Sitting for a prolonged amount of time can wreak havoc on your posture, causing lower back pain. A study published in JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, surveyed 6,000 people and found that a quarter of them reported sitting for more than eight hours a day; this is a long period of time to be hunched over. Poor posture that comes from prolonged sitting can lead to a reduced range of motion and can negatively impact the back, core, and abdominal muscles by weakening them.  

What exercises can I do to improve my posture and ease back pain? 

In addition to standing more often and taking frequent walks throughout the day, you can improve your posture and hopefully relieve back pain by focusing on a select few exercises. 

The offset carry is a great exercise that will help improve core stability and posture. Take two kettle bells, or dumbbells of differing weights, and hold the heavier one at your side and the lighter one in an overhead or over-shoulder position. Keep the shoulders down and chest up as you walk forwards until you’re ready to swap sides. Holding two differently sized weights on each side forms a larger demand on your core to maintain stability, a neutral spine and good posture. 

Thoracic spine extensions on a physio ball are a great way to strengthen your spinal erectors without having to support too much of your own body weight. The spinal erectors are muscles in your lower back that surround your spine and are responsible for stabilising the spine.  To begin this move you will first need to kneel in front of an exercise ball, place your stomach on it, and then place your hands behind your head whilst sinking your chest forward. Flex your entire back and raise your chest off the ball, holding the position for a few seconds before lowering yourself back down. Strengthening your spinal erectors in this way will ease back pain and will help those who wish to progress to more intense deadlifting exercises. 

What is the best exercise to help with lower back pain? 

Reverse Hyperextension is a phenomenal exercise for targeting lower back musculature. The move is achieved by extending your legs up behind you as you lay face down on a hyperextension machine or a glute-ham raise developer. If you are not at the gym or don’t have access to these machines, you can lay on a flat bench or table and wrap your arms underneath to stay in place; in any case, your legs should be dangling off the end of the bench. Whilst holding onto the bench of choice, brace your core and straighten your legs, then flex the muscles in your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back to raise your legs above the hipline. Hold the position of the movement for one second, then lower back down with control. Reverse hyperextension builds up the muscles in the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, all of which play an important role in supporting the spine.  

What exercise can I do to ease my back pain that doesn’t require any equipment? 

The superman is a great exercise to help prevent injuries to your lower back, improve your posture, and build a better mind-muscle connection to your lower back and glutes. Start by laying down on your front and then lift your arms and legs off the ground by flexing your lower back muscles. When you begin to hold this position, your lower back will work to stabilize the position isometrically. The great part about this exercise is that anyone of any fitness level can do this at home.  

Sources: 

National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS), Back, Lower Limb and Upper Limb Pain Among U.S. Adults, 2019  https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/107894 

Joint Prevalence of Sitting Time and Leisure-Time Physical Activity Among US Adults, 2015-2016 https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2715582 

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