Suffer with back pain? We spoke to fitness guru and personal trainer Jess Neill, from JN Fit to get some expert tips on how to ease a bad back. Here are some genius stretches and back workouts that will help to alleviate any niggling back pain
The invention of the chair (and desk), while practical for an office setting, means we now sit our bodies down in one or two positions for hours, every single day. This sedentary lifestyle wreaks havoc on our spine and pelvis. This, coupled with weak muscles, can be the root cause of mild to severe back pain.
So for those who suffer from uncomfortable muscle twinges and aching joints, there are some simple exercises and stretches that work to strengthen the spine and combat back pain.
I suggest firstly, setting an alert on your computer to stand up and move around every 30-40 minutes. Take phone calls standing up and aim to walk over and talk to a colleague rather than sending an email wherever possible, to help include some extra movement in your day. You could even set up a friendly challenge amongst your colleagues to try to accumulate 8,000 steps per day.
To fight off the symptoms of back pain in the short-term, here are my recommended stretches and strengthening back workouts:
3 Back Stretches to Ease Back Pain
Cat & Camel
On all fours, inhale, gently relax your tummy and arch your back while lifting your chin (like a cat stretching), then exhale and draw up your belly, round your back and tuck your chin down (like a camel’s hump).
Repeat 5-10 times
Lay on your tummy, with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and thighs, then gently push down through your hands to raise your chest and stomach off the mat. Only lift as high as your mobility allows, keep your shoulders down away from your ears, chin down and keep your glutes squeezed tightly. Imagine pulling your chest forward as you push through your hands.
Hold for 30 seconds - 2 minutes
Lay on your back, arms out wide and legs out straight. Gently brace your core, lift your right leg off the ground, bending the knee toward your chest, then drop the knee across the left of your body onto the floor. If your right arm comes off the ground, this is OK.
Hold for 30 seconds - 2 minutes, then gently return the leg to the starting position and repeat with the left leg.
5 Spine-Supporting Strength Exercises to Ease Back Pain
To fight off the symptoms long-term however, it’s important to strengthen the muscles that support your spine and hips as they stay in these sedentary positions. These muscles include the mid/low traps, rhomboids, erector spinae, transverse abdominals, obliques, glutes and hamstrings.
Here are 5 of my favourite spine-supporting strength exercises that you can do from the comfort of home. Perform the exercises as a circuit 3-5 times through, for 15-20 reps of each exercise.
Works: mid/ low traps, rhomboids, rear deltoids (shoulders)
Lay on your tummy with your legs out straight and arms out overhead and wide (like a capital Y). Rest your forehead on the ground to keep your neck relaxed, and give the ceiling a thumbs up. Squeeze your glutes and thighs, then lift your hands off the ground, keeping your chest and head as relaxed as possible. Return them to the ground with control. That’s one rep.
Works: erector spinae, QL’s, glutes
Lay on your back with legs out straight and arms directly overhead. Begin with forehead on the ground, and squeeze glutes and thighs, and arms hard (imagine making your hands and feet move as far away from one another as possible). Float your arms, head, chest and knees up off the ground simultaneously, still thinking about reaching hands and feet away from one another. Lower back to the starting position with control. That’s 1 rep.
Works: glutes, transverse abdominis, hamstrings
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet a comfortable distance from your hips; arms by your sides, shoulders away from ears. Squeeze your glutes and abs to press your lower back gently into the floor, then push your feet into the floor to curl your tailbone, then lower back, then mid-back off the mat. Imagine peeling your spine one vertebrae at a time, then reverse the movement, slowly lowering each vertebrae of your spine one at a time back on to the mat, ending with the tailbone. That’s 1 rep.
Works: Hamstrings, glutes, transverse abdominis
Perform the first half of a pelvic curl, and hold your hips up. This is your beginning position. Lift your toes off the ground, and begin to walk your heels away from you, while keeping your hips high. Only move as far out as you can keep your hips off the ground. Reverse and walk your heels back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
Works: Transverse Abdominis, obliques, erector spinae
Begin on all fours, then place your elbows on the mat directly underneath your shoulders. Carefully step your feet out so that your body forms a straight line from shoulder to heel. Lift your belly button away from the ground, and squeeze your glutes and thighs hard. Avoid sagging your hips, or rounding through your upper back.
Modification: keep your knees on the ground, while still ensuring a straight line from shoulder to knee.