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Exercises for Relief of Lower Back Pain

By Doug Desjardins ; Updated July 27, 2017

Back pain can be caused by temporary problems like a strained muscle or chronic conditions like arthritis, degenerative disc disease or congenital problems of the spine. Regardless of the cause, there are many exercises that can help alleviate lower back pain.

Aerobic Exercise

Exercise is a good way to relieve lower back pain, but it's important to pursue the right kind of exercise regime. Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, cycling or swimming improve heart health, strengthen muscles and keep them healthy by improving blood flow. Exercise also helps by releasing endorphins that improve your mood and decrease pain. People with chronic back pain should pursue low-impact exercises like swimming, walking and cycling and avoid high-impact workouts like jogging that tend to jar the back muscles and can do more harm than good.

Stretch to Improve Sciatica

Sciatica is one of the most common sources of lower back pain. It occurs when nerves in and around the lower spine are compressed and irritated by an injury or a chronic condition, which produces pain that often radiates from the lower back down into the legs and feet. One of the best ways to relieve sciatica pain is to stretch the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh, since tight hamstrings put excess stress on the lower back.

A good stretching exercise is the leg lift. Lie on your back with your legs bent. Lift each leg into the air and hold it with your hands for 15 to 20 seconds, stretching the back of the leg. The same exercise can be done sitting in a chair by raising your legs as high in the air as possible and holding them there for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat each stretching exercise 10 times for each leg to fully stretch hamstrings and help alleviate pain.

Core Strengthening

Other exercise relieve lower back pain by strengthening muscles in the back and abdomen, creating a stronger "core" to support the spine. These exercises are particularly good for people with degenerative disc disease or arthritis.

One effective exercise is the "hook-lying march." Lie on your back with your knees bent, and slowly march in place by lifting each leg off the floor 3 or 4 inches and holding it in place for 30 seconds at a time.

A second exercise is called "bridging." You do this by lying on your back and raising your buttocks in the air using your back and leg muscles. Hold the position 10 seconds at a time.

A third exercise is called "leg raises." Lie on your stomach and raise each leg in the air, holding it for 4 to 6 seconds.

Doing these exercises regularly strengthens back, leg and stomach muscles and creates a strong trunk that takes pressure off the lower back.

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