Waking up with or going to bed with lower back pain is the worst. You can’t get comfortable in your work chair, you can’t get comfortable on the couch, and you might as well forget finding a bed that’s the perfect amount of firm and soft.
According to Eat Local Grown, as many as eight out of 10 Americans suffer from back pain, and it’s so widespread that it is one of the leading contributors to prescription drug addiction.
Instead of turning to painkillers to solve your sciatic or lower back pain, try these easy exercises that may help relieve discomfort and actually stretch and strengthen the muscles to prevent future pain.
1. Decompression Breathing
Greatist suggests using your breath and your core to help decompress your lower spine. We have a tendency to stand in what I like to call the “booty pop,” which means our tailbones are pointed up and our spine is making an “S” shape, with the shoulders slumped and the lower spine making the shape at the bottom of an “S.”
To correct this, think about just bringing that booty pop in and lengthening the spine. Greatist says you should do this standing up, with your feet slightly apart.
Move your weight into your heels and unlock your knees. Use your inner thigh muscles to feel as though your pulling your heels toward each other. Extend your arms over your head and press your fingertips together. (You might feel as though you’re bending at the hips, but only slightly.)
Stand up tall and inhale, lifting your ribcage away from your hips and extending through the top part of your spine. As you exhale, tighten your lower abdomen, so much that your tailbone tucks, lengthening your lower spine. Keep repeating this process until your spine feels lengthened and supported.
2. Leg Raises With Bent Knees
A video from Sciatica Treatments suggests lying on your back with your hands facing palms down and close to your sides. Bend your knees, and raise your feet off of the ground.
Repeat five times, only touching your feet to the ground between each lift. Try to incorporate this move into a daily routine of stretches like the one described above.
3. Sphinx Pose
Incorporate a little yoga into your lower back routine with sphinx, which helps strengthen and heal the lower back.
Lie on your stomach and place your elbows under your shoulders, propping yourself up. Reach your hands straight out in front of you, pushing down into your hands, forearms and the tops of your feet, according to Julie Radar, a coach at Breaking Muscle.
Press your chest forward, but try to feel as though you’re using the traction from your hands and arms on the ground to pull your chest forward and push your shoulders back. Firmly press your public bone into the ground.
Remove your elbows from under you, and rest your face on the back of your hands while gently moving your hips from side to side. Repeat once more.
4. Eight-Point Plank
This move will help build your core so that your spine has more support. With more support from your core, you’re less likely to sit or walk in that “booty pop” that I described before, which compresses and stiffens the muscles in the lower back.
Greatist says you should start lying on your stomach with your feet flexed and your knees touching.
Place your elbows a few inches in front of your shoulders and try to move your shoulders away from your ears so you aren’t crunching them into your neck. Squeeze your knees and elbows toward the center of your body.
Then, lift yourself up using your knees, toes and elbows. You’ll have to slide your knees in just slightly, but make sure you’re maintaining a long, neutral spine, and that your elbows remain a few inches in front of your shoulders.
Hold yourself up using your core, and make sure you’re squeezing your elbows toward your toes and knees.
Hold the plank for 20 to 30 seconds. According to Greatist, slight trembling means you’re engaging the right muscles.
5. Seated Forward Fold
Sit up with your legs together and your feet flexed. (Sometimes it’s helpful to physically move your butt out of the way so that you’re sitting flat on your butt bones.) Reach your arms up and lengthen your spine, then fold forward, reaching for your toes, feet, or shins.
You want to feel the stretch more along your spine than in your legs, so adjust accordingly. Hold for at least 10 seconds, according to Sciatica Treatments.