How to Get Rid of Low Back Pain: The 5 Best Exercises

low back pain

Anyone with low back pain can tell you how awful it is. Plus, low back pain is one of those mysterious terms– maybe you can pick up sticks in your yard, but you can’t tie your shoes. Or, maybe you’ve already injured yourself enough so that the least bit of movement causes back pain.

This was the situation that greeted me when I went to a party this past Halloween. One of the guys was a forklift operator. He was in his 40s with good health and no real problems. Then, he bent over to tie his shoe one day and his back went out.

This is extremely common! You can put your body through ridiculous challenges like heavy lifting or lots of rotation, but the thing that will drop you to your knees will be something small like tying your shoes or sneezing.

Fortunately, there are some easy exercises you can do to get rid of low back pain and start feeling better today!

But, before we talk about how to get rid of low back pain, it’s important to understand what it is and how it showed up in the first place.

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What causes low back pain?

The low back, which is technically referred to as the lumbar spine, is particularly susceptible to injury and pain. This is for three main reasons:

  1. We use it a lot. Whether you’re sitting or standing, your low back muscles are at work.
  2. Many low back muscles do the same or just slightly different work. This is both a blessing and a curse. When you injure a low back muscle, it’s easy for it to adhere to a neighbor to take over while it heals. The neighbor will, most likely, do a really good job. The downside is that if you don’t undo the adhesion once the muscle heals, you’ve just accidentally tasked one muscle to do the work of two. This can cause further back pain.
  3. Some low back muscles attach to different parts of the body. This means that yes, your low back pain can be caused by a muscle in your lower back. However, it could also be caused by a muscle that runs from your lower back to the top of your pelvis or thigh. Because of these muscles that attach in non-lumbar areas, your low back pain could be caused by some issues with your hip or thigh.

So, there’s no real way to tell which muscle is causing my low back pain?

Hold on there! You can still figure out which muscle is causing your lower back pain. Then, once you know which muscle or muscles to work on, you’ll know what you have to do to get rid of low back pain.

The Lower Back Muscles That Might Be Causing Your Low Back Pain

There are many spinal muscles that perform various functions like connecting vertebrae to each other up the chain of the spine. These muscles are the ones you use when your spine rotates, flexes, and extends.

Below is a picture of these spinal muscles. You will notice that spinal muscles are present in a third to half of our back. It is quite an elaborate system to keep the spine stable.

erector spinea
Thanks to CoreWalking.com for the image.

Normally, these stabilizing spinal muscles aren’t the ones that are causing your pain. Instead, you should take a look at muscles like the:

  • Psoas, which connects your lumbar vertebrae to your femur (thigh bone) to work as a hip flexor;
  • Quadratus lumborum, which is referred to as the QL and runs beside your spine to connect your pelvis to your rib cage;
  • Iliocostalis lumborum, which connects your tailbone, pelvis, and lumbar spine to your rib cage; and
  • External obliques, which also connect your pelvis to your rib cage and can be notoriously weak.

In fairness to the low back muscles, they have some extra stress and strain that our other muscles don’t have to deal with.

  1. Your low back doesn’t have supportive help from any other bony structure (like the rib cage).
  2. Many of our organs are located in front of the spine in the space between our rib cage and pelvis. Supporting the weight of these organs can be very challenging to the stability of the spine.
  3. With so many attached muscles moving in different directions, it is easy for one tight muscle to pull a vertebra out of place.

Now that you’re starting to understand perhaps which muscles are causing your low back pain, it’s time to figure out what you need to do to relieve your pain and feel better.

How can I get rid of low back pain?

Low back pain is an unwelcome visitor. Out of nowhere, it shows up and makes itself at home in your body. At first, it is just an inconvenience. 

When will this go away? Sometimes, it goes away for a couple of days and then returns. Ultimately, you end up wondering, What do I have to do to get rid of this forever?

There are obvious ways to get rid of low back pain:  lose weight, strengthen your core, lift heavy objects by putting a good bend in your knees and keeping the object close to your chest, warm up before doing activity, wear sensible shoes with good support, get massages, use tennis balls or rollers to loosen up the muscles, and go to the chiropractor. All of this is really good advice. I highly recommend it. You have probably heard all of that before, so I’m going to talk about other things you can do.

As always, going to your doctor is the best thing to do if you are in pain. Doctors can prescribe imaging to tell you if you have specific problems or injuries. This can prevent you from further injuring yourself. They can also prescribe medicines to help you feel better. I am not a medical professional, so please, take my advice as just that. If something seems wrong, go see your doctor.

Now, this is a ranked list with #1 being the most important thing that I think you should do.

  1. Pay attention to your posture and alignment in every thing that you do. When you are driving, watching TV, brushing your teeth, getting food from the fridge–literally, everything you do–pay attention! If you have not started paying attention to what your body is doing while your mind is working, start now. Notice how you stand at the sink or in the store. Now, realign yourself. For more information, I wrote some articles on neutral alignment while standing, sitting, and on your hands and knees.                                                              Be aware that neck injury can accompany low back injury. When the neck or low back is out of alignment, the compensation curve will often happen in the other spot. This can easily cause problems in both areas, so when you’re paying attention to your posture, be sure that you notice your whole spine through the top of your head.
  2. Forward bend. If you do not have a bulging disc, bending and relaxing forward is very therapeutic for your spine. In yoga, it’s called Uttanasana. Make sure to keep a soft bend in the back of your knees. By doing this stretch while standing, you allow gravity to help you and create a natural traction for your spine. Traction will help stretch the tight muscles, allowing space to come between the vertebrae again and relieve any pain from compressed nerves. However, if you do this when you have a bulging disc, you run the risk of making your back injury worse.
  3. Do Imprint and check your rib cage placement. By doing this, you are making sure that your ribs and hips are aligned to make a cylinder. This will make it much easier for your abdominals to work correctly. When the abdominals work correctly, they contain your organs within your body cavity and provide appropriate support for your low back. Increased efficiency of the abdominals will lead to greater core strength.
  4. Do some gentle spinal rotation. Allowing your legs to windshield wiper back and forth is a great way to warm up the muscles needed for rotation. Next, come onto your side and allow your upper body to rotate open while keeping your pelvis stable. Then, come onto your back and allow your pelvis and legs to rotate to one side then the other while keeping your rib cage still.
  5. Sometimes, the location of the pain is not the cause of the pain. Nerves are very complex. A pinched nerve over here could result in a pain over there. When trying to relieve back pain, never presume that the spot where you feel pain is the spot that needs to be fixed. It is very likely that while you may feel pain in only one spot, many spinal muscles, glutes, and the hamstrings could benefit from a good stretch.

Get rid of low back pain video

Here is a video that explains some things to do get rid of low back pain.

What are some things that you do to relieve low back pain? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! After experimenting with the very best and easiest ways to relieve hip + back pain, I figured out a powerful combination of exercises to ditch pain and get back to living a completely active life. Are you ready to get started?