Let’s get this part out of the way up front: There are two basic ways to classify back pain. There’s the kind that results from an acute episode, like a fall or accident, when the hurt doesn’t subside or change for five to seven days. (If this describes you, you should be at your doctor’s office now, instead of reading this article.)
Then, there’s another kind of back pain that’s way more common. It’s the kind that results from sitting hunched at your desk, pounding the keyboard on a truly crappy day. Or, it’s what you feel after standing for hours in way-too-high heels. And of course, back issues can also be brought on by going HAM during a totally new-to-you workout. (Want strength-training tips? Check out my book Lift to Get Lean.)
In my 20-plus years of experience working with clients and physical therapists, most back issues really come down to an irritation of the muscles that support your spine, and simply require some TLC. The muscles in your back respond to activity just like your leg, butt and arm muscles, and sometimes they get sore. The best remedy is gentle, restorative activity, rest, and an Epsom salt bath.
These six exercises are my go-to protocol when a client shows up with back issues. Consistent discomfort is a signal to me that we need to strengthen the core muscles, in general, and a dedicated program works like a charm every time. This workout is what I use to relax the muscles, open up range of motion, and bring flexibility back.
Begin with a 10-minute warmup on a stationary bicycle, at a very comfortable speed and resistance.
Then, find a comfy spot on the floor, and slowly and gently go through these moves. At the end of the first round, assess if your discomfort feels better. If it does, perform another round. If your back seems irritated, lie down with knees bent and feet on the floor for five minutes. Call it a day and try again tomorrow. (Or, don’t hesitate to check in with your doc if the ache doesn’t go away.)