- Back pain usually comes from compression of the spine, according to physical therapist Dr. Casey Coleman.
- He said exercises that strengthen muscles supporting the back can help decompress the spine.
- Planks and pelvic tilts are two exercises that can help ease tension in the back, he said.
Back pain might make you want to stop moving, but exercise is one of the best ways to help relieve and prevent back pain, according to physical therapist and Pre-PT Grind co-founder Casey Coleman.
Coleman said spinal cord compression is the most common reason he sees people have back pain. Compression usually comes from sitting or standing for too long as well as activities that compress the back, he said. The best thing you can do to prevent back pain is to exercise muscles that support the back and decompress the spine.
Decompress the spine
Coleman said spinal cord compression can be exacerbated by activities that add compression, like lifting heavy objects.
Exercises like the overhead press, deadlift, and back squat also compress the back in a way that can make pain worse. If you’re already experiencing back pain, consider avoiding these exercises.
Anything that decompresses the spine can be beneficial for back pain, he said. Water aerobics removes the force of gravity on your spine as you move. Hanging from a pull-up bar or having someone pull on your legs as you hold onto something can also help.
Planks take tension off the back
Another way to relieve back pain is to build strength in the muscles that support the back, Coleman said.
Planks strengthen the muscles in your abs. A strong core more evenly distributes the weight of your upper body, he said, which lessens spinal cord compression.
Bird dogs build core and glute strength
Coleman said that bird dogs strengthen your core as well as your glute muscles, which both support the back.
To perform the exercise, start in a tabletop position with your back flat and head facing down. Extend your left arm and right leg back and hold this position for a few seconds, before bringing both back down. Repeat with your right arm and left leg.
The balancing required to perform bird dogs builds a strong, stable core, he said. Lifting your legs also builds muscle in your glutes, which supports the base of your back.
Pelvic tilts strengthen the foundation of your spine
Pelvic tilts work the glutes and pelvis, Coleman said, which is the foundation of the spine. The spine is much more supported when these are strong.
A pelvic tilt is performed by lying on your back with your feet on the ground and knees bent. Press your lower back into the floor by squeezing your abs and bringing your hips slightly towards your head. Hold for a few seconds before returning to starting position.
If you’re not feeling up for exercise, Coleman said the best thing you can do to ease back pain is to go for a walk or switch up your posture. Walking or changing the way you’re sitting can take pressure off the muscles supporting your back and bring you quick relief, he said.
If you’re concerned about back pain, it’s always best to talk to a doctor or physical therapist. While exercises can help ease back pain in many cases, there are a number of causes that need professional attention, Coleman said.