3 Exercises to Prevent Lower Back Pain

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Low back pain is very prevalent in the U.S. with over 80% of people having back pain at some point in their life, and 25% of the population has had back pain in the past 3 months.  Treatment of back pain costs about $96 million a year.

Over the last 16 years as a physical therapist who primarily treats spine pain, I often get asked; “What are the best exercises for preventing back pain?”  With the caveat of no exercises should be over-performed to the point of pain, and if you are currently having back pain one is best served by seeing a PT for an evaluation and specific exercise prescription, I feel the best 3 exercises to PREVENT back pain are:

Walk 30 minutes 4-5 times per week

In the US we have the tendency for a sedentary lifestyle.  This lifestyle is associated with many health risks including back pain.  The benefits of walking include better mobility, better cardiovascular health which leads to healthier muscles and joints, controlling weight through burning more calories, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis, increasing leg strength…not to mention regular walking has been shown to improve one’s mood.

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Planks

Front and side planks are a very isolated strengthening exercise for the deep muscles of the core.  Strengthening these muscles supports the spine and helps prevent injury.  For most of us, planks need to be progressed over time in both duration and intensity.

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Spine stretching

Full range of motion spine stretching will help maintain mobility of the spine and prevent stiffness which can lead to pain.  What I call “Prayer” to “Prone press” stretching will help maintain flexibility in the spine.  Each stretch should be done comfortably and held for 30 sec each for 3-5 repetitions.

These exercises can not prevent all back pain, but I feel doing them on a regular basis will minimize your risk of developing a chronic spine issue.

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