Lower back pain is one of the most common medical complaints worldwide. In America alone, 31 million people are experiencing lower back pain at any given time.
While most people ignore their pain with pain killers or try to alleviate it through heat and cold treatment, getting down to the root of the issue proves to be much more beneficial. In fact, tight, sore, and weak muscles are more often than not, the culprit behind most lower back and hip pain.
Our hips play a huge part in how our lower back is feeling. If you think about it, our entire spine is sitting on top of our hips – if your hips are out of line, or your pelvis is anteriorly tilted, then you’re most likely going to have issues with the lower back and hips.
When the pelvis is misaligned, the low back can tighten and spasm, causing irritation to the nerves, muscles, discs and ligaments. Tight hip flexors and gluteal muscles can also cause referred back pain. Certain hip flexor muscles (psoas major and minor) attach to the spine itself, and can pull on it abnormally if tight, and can also cause low back pain.
Disc injuries may also be the cause (much more rare), but if you get relief by performing these exercises, it is likely not anything too serious.
Below are 10 exercises you should be doing every day to help relieve your back and hip pain. Luckily enough, the exercises that help with hip pain, also help with back pain, because hip issues also affect the stability of the lower back.
As with all exercises, make sure you breathe deep, and go at the pace and stretch level you’re comfortable with.
1. Reverse Lunge
This lunge strengthens our gluteus muscles, which helps prevent back problems and tight hips.
1. Begin in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart.
2. Start the movement by taking a step to the back, lowering your body until your knee nearly touches the ground.
3. The knee should stay in line with the foot, and your posture should always remain upright.
4. After a brief pause, return to the starting position by driving through the heel of the front leg to extend the knees and hips.
5. Repeat 10 times on one leg, and then do the opposite leg. Aim for 3 sets on each leg.
2. Lying Twist
For a tight and weak lower back and for helping get rid of lower back pain.
1. Lay on your back with your arms horizontally stretched out in line with the shoulders.
2. Bend your knees and bring your feet close to your hips. The soles of the feet should be fully on the ground.
3. Swing the knees to the left until the left knee touches the ground. At the same time, turn the head to the right and look at your right palm.
4. Breathe deeply for 30-60 seconds. With each exhalation, relax deeper into the pose.
5. Repeat on the other side.
3. Shoelace Stretch
This stretch helps release tight hips and opens up the lower back.
1. Begin by sitting cross-legged and then draw one foot under the opposite tight and the other food over toward the opposite hip.
2. If your hips are really tight, sit on a pillow to tilt them forward.
3. Fold your torso forward, keeping your spine straight. You can support your head with your hands, leaning the elbows on the thighs or on a block or bolster.
4. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing deep. Then repeat on the other side.
4. Seated Twist
A good stretch for lower back pain and relieving sciatica.
1. Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you.2. Bend your right knee and place your right heel as close as possible to your right sit-bone. Then, bend your left knee and cross your left foot over your right knee. Place it on the floor so that your left ankle is next to your right knee.
2. Reach your left arm behind you and place your palm on the floor. Then, bend your right elbow and cross it over the outside of your left knee. Keep your elbow bent, and if you can, hold onto your left toes.
3. Keep your left hand on the floor for stability, or bring your left arm around your lower back. Reach for your shirt, or hook your fingers on top of your right thigh. Gaze behind you and over your left shoulder. Continue pressing your right arm into your left knee, and use each inhale to lengthen the spine and each exhale to rotate further to the left.
4. Stay here for 1 minute, then release the twist and straighten out your legs. Repeat on the other side.
5. Seated Lunge
A great hip flexor stretch to minimize hip and lower back pain – it is especially useful to help those with difficulty sitting due to pain.
1. Sit upright with one leg and buttock fully ON the seat, and the other leg and buttock OFF the seat. Both knees should be bent and feet flat.
2. With the unsupported leg, slide it to the side and behind you, until you are fully stretched out as comfortably as possible. Hold the chair rest or table for stability.
3. Try to extend the leg behind you by contracting your thigh muscles and hold this position for 1 minute.
4. Repeat on the other side.
6. Pigeon Pose
A good stretch for the outer hip and piriformis muscle, which can irritate the sciatic nerve and cause hip and back pain.
1. Come into a kneeling position, and rest your weight into the affected hip. Bring the opposite knee back to about 90 degrees, and the affected foot forward, as far as it feels comfortable so there is no pulling.
2. Place your hands on either side of the affected knee, and lift out of the hips to hinge forward, giving a nice stretch into the affected hip.
3. Breathe deeply for 30 seconds, and maintain a nice length in the spine. Do not round the spine, keep it long and tall, and keep yourself propped up with your hands. Eventually, you may be able to come down to your forearms
7. Butterfly Pose
This stretch works on your inner thighs, hips and groin. It increases flexibility in the hip flexor muscles. If you fold forward in the stretch, then you also work on opening up tight lower back muscles.
1. Sit on the ground, and bend both knees. Bring your feet together and use your hands to open up your feet like a book. Use your leg muscles to press your knees down toward the floor.
2. Keeping the spine straight, relax the shoulders and then slowly fold forward, while breathing deeply. Remember to keep the spine straight. If you can only bend forward a few inches, that is fine, sit here and breathe.
3. If you want a deeper stretch, extend the arms out in front of you on the floor. Stay here for 5 deep breaths, and then return to starting position.
8. Lateral Hip Stretch
Restore spinal balance and relieve back and hip pain with this lateral stretch of the hips.
1. Lie on the floor and place one knee over the opposite knee crossed leg.
2. Using your upper leg, pull the opposite knee to the opposite side and hold.
3. You should feel a stretch to your thigh and lateral hip on the side that was pulled over.
4. Relax and breathe for 4-5 deep breaths.
5. Repeat by moving both knees to the opposite side and holding again.
9. Standing Abdominal Exercise
This exercise works to correct an anterior pelvic tilt, which can put lots of strain on the hips and lower back if not corrected.
1. Stand upright, feet together, gluteal muscles contracted.
2. Contract the abdominal muscles so that you tilt your belly button up towards you while drawing your belly button in toward your spine.
3. Hold for 20 seconds and then release.
4. Repeat 5-10 times throughout the day.
10. Deep Squat Rest
Helps to open up the hips and make the lower back less stiff. With time, it will become easier to lower into this position.
1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart.
2. Slowly lower your body to a full squat position while keeping your upper body upright.
3. As you get lower, bring your belly button to your thighs, and relax while resting your arms in front. Your knees and legs should be tucked in.
4. Rest here for 1 minute or until you feel that your stomach and chest are fully resting on your thighs.
5. Repeat 2-3 times per day.