Nothing can stop a day in its tracks quite like back pain. And if you’ve got a busy on-the-go lifestyle, you can’t always make it to a massage appointment to soothe away those knots and kinks. But if you can find some floor space and 15 minutes to spare, you’re already ahead of the game. You can work out your tightest muscles on the tightest schedules with these five exercises designed to melt those back pains away.
If you have tight and sore back muscles, exercise might seem like the last thing you want to do. Fortunately, yoga is a great low-impact way to work some of that tension out. While yoga is a great way to work out any number of muscles, it’s particularly helpful working on those often neglected muscles that help support you and keep you going.
If you’re new to yoga, don’t fret. You can do these exercises at home at your own pace, and customize a routine that works best for you. Some poses that are particularly helpful for back pain include:
For this pose, you’ll want to begin on your back with your knees pulled in towards your chest. Your arms should be stretched out on either side, like a T.
Try to focus on your breathing as you stretch. When you exhale, roll your knees towards the ground to the right and hold for one minute; your shoulders should still be flat on the floor. Then, return to the starting position and repeat on your left side
This is actually two poses used together to work out those back muscles. Start on all fours with your arms shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. As you inhale, enter the cow pose by lowering your belly towards the floor without bending your arms, and look upwards.
As you exhale you’ll move into the cat pose: pull your belly back up towards your spine, and curve your back upwards. Allow your head to relax towards the floor. Repeat these poses 5-20 times, remembering to match your breathing to the poses.
As exercises, pilates and yoga share a lot of similarities. They both strengthen and stretch the muscles that tend to get either overused or underworked. In fact, some instructors will combine the two together as “yogalates,” and you can too! Use some of these moves in combination with your yoga poses to create the perfect at-home workout.
Pelvic Tilt to Pelvic Curl:
Start on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your feet and knees should be hip-width apart. Just like with the yoga exercises, you’re going to want to match your breathing to the moves. On the exhale, use your abs to pull in towards your stomach, pushing your lower spine to the floor. Your pubic bone should be raised a little higher than your hips.
When you inhale, you’ll begin to do the pelvic curl. Push your feet against the floor and slowly lift your tailbone so that your hips, lower back, and mid-back are raised off the floor, still keeping your legs parallel. When you exhale, begin the pelvic tilt once more. You can repeat this move 3-5 times.
This exercise works your back muscles without putting them under excess strain. Begin by laying on your stomach with your legs together and arms stretched straight ahead. Keeping to stretched out is key; avoid raising your shoulders to your ears, which might end up bringing on new pain.
Using your core muscles, raise your arms and legs slightly off the ground, while keeping your head facing the floor. Raise your right arm and left leg, then lift your left arm and right leg. Pump your arms and legs in this manner for 5 seconds, then rest. Repeat 2-3 sets of 5 seconds each.
While yoga and pilates might seem like the most obvious options, you can also help ease your back pain by strengthening and training your back, core and leg muscles. Even though the idea of doing weight training with a sore back can seem unattractive, those type of exercises can prevent future back pain and improve your posture.
For this exercise, you’ll need a set of dumbbells. For beginners, start this workout with a set of light weights and work your way up to heavier ones.
While standing, line your feet up with your hips. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, slowly raise your arms to the side up to your shoulders. Your arms should be slightly bent throughout — don’t lock those elbows! Once your arms are at your shoulders, slowly lower them to your sides again. Repeat this 15 times.
These short and easy exercises, especially used in combination, will keep your back feeling strong and pain-free.