Last updated on January 15th, 2023 at 01:51 PM
Back pain has now reached epidemic levels in the UK and is now the single cause of disability according to NHS England.
With most people resorting to painkillers, I spoke with leading GP Dr Dawn Harper and Physiotherapist Sammy Margo to pull together the top exercises to help ease back pain through stretching and strengthening core muscles.
A 12-week trial in 228 adults with chronic lower back pain found that stretching exercises were more effective than yoga at reducing pain and improving mobility.
Dr Dawn Harper says: “Mind Your Back sets out stretches which only take a minute or two, but will reduce stiffness, boost circulation and ease pain.”
Spinal stretch: Feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms, palms to ceiling – go slowly. Reach as high as you can comfortably. Release as you breathe out and lower your arms to the side. Repeat x2.
Lateral exion: Stand tall – slowly, slide your hand down the side of your leg. Keep the opposite shoulder down. Pause a moment and slowly come back up to the centre. Then do the other side. Repeat x2 on each side.
Flex: Stand by your desk, feet hip-width apart. Place your hands or elbows on the desk to take the pressure off your back. Slowly start to arch your back as if someone was lifting you between your shoulder blades. Allow your head and neck to relax down. Tuck in your tailbone, engage your butt, and hold.
Extend: Drop your tummy down and dip your back. Bring your head up slowly. Repeat the sequence x2.
Rotate: Stand, feet hip-width apart, clench your butt and pull your tummy in. Keep your hips facing forward and stretch your arms out.
Cross your right hand over your body and place your palm on your left hip then take it back to where we started and take left hand across the body to right hip. Gradually move up the body rotating and placing your hands to your waist, then up to your shoulders. Repeat x2
In the longer term, the best approach is to improve your core, abdominal strength and build up the muscles in your shoulders and lower back which support the spine. Follow these exercises to build key muscles that support your back & spine.
Roll Down: Stand feet hip-width apart. Engage your butt and pull your tummy in. Tuck your chin to your chest and roll down bone by bone. Let your head pull you down, let your arms hang loose, and take a couple of breaths. Slowly roll up into standing. Repeat x2.
The Plank: Get down on all fours – hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Breathe in and engage your butt and pull in your tummy. Extend one leg back, knee lifted, then the other, so you are in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Hold it for a few breaths. Repeat x2.
Swimming: Lie face down and stretch your arms out in front of you palms down. Engage your butt and pull in your tummy.
Slowly lift your right arm and left leg off the mat, lifting your head and neck slightly keeping your gaze down while stretching diagonally.
Take a couple of breaths and slowly lower your arm and leg. Then swap to your left arm and right leg. Trying to stretch a bit further each time. Repeat x2.
Bridge: Lie on your back and get your feet near to your bottom arms by your side. Engage your butt and pull your tummy in.
Tip your pelvis to the ceiling and lift your tailbone off the mat and then your back, one vertebra at a time, until there is a straight line, from your knees to your shoulders.
Pause there for a few breaths and then reverse the move, lowering yourself back slowly to the mat. Keep your pelvis tipped until your spine makes it back to the mat. Repeat x2.
The 100: Lie on your back, knees bent, arms at by your side and palms down. Engage your butt and pull your tummy in.
Lift one leg so the shin is parallel to the ceiling, knee directly above the hip, press back to the floor and lift the other leg, head, neck, arms and gently pulse arms x10, then turn palms to the ceiling and pulse. Do 100 if you can.