Chiropractor Serving Farmington NM | Smith Chiropractic

5 Back Strengthening Exercises You Can Do to Alleviate Back Pain

Fight your back pain at the office or at home

When it comes to pain, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. Using your muscles and strengthening areas of weakness can prove very effective in keeping chronic and short-term pains at bay. There are many stretches and exercises that are simple to perform and don't require special training to do at home or work.

Creating a simple stretching program can be a huge asset to keeping your back healthy and pain-free. If working in an office situation has you feeling cramped, stretch it out and relieve those tired muscles. You don't have to get crazy and start doing yoga poses in the office, but there are simple things you can do right in your chair that won't bring too much attention to yourself.

These stretches can be performed at your desk or in a chair in any location and don't require any special training or clothing. The best part is the use of these stretches can help alleviate the stress and strain your muscles are experiencing and will reduce back pain and discomfort. To loosen up muscles that are tightening up on you or to help reduce the aches and discomforts caused by work-related stresses, try some of the following stretches below.

Here are 5 stretches to try the next time you are at work and feeling the strain:

1. Spine stretch

  • Slowly drop your chin to your chest; this stretches the muscles in your neck and upper back.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds
  • Repeat as necessary

This stretch is also prescribed by physical therapist who are helping patients with posture related pain. Stretching your neck muscles by dropping your chin slowly to your chest will also help straighten out your spine and help you have better posture.

2. Side Stretch

  • Start by raising your right arm over your head while leaning in the same direction of the raised arm.
  • Hold for 3-6 seconds
  • Balance the stretch by raising your left arm over your head while leaning in the same direction of the raised arm.

The side stretch is one of many desk stretches that are easy and fairly unobtrusive; it's a very common place stretch that many people do almost unconsciously. This stretch eases the tension in your shoulders as well as the lower back.

3. The chest up stretch

  • Simply raise both arms and fold them behind your head and push your elbows out like butterfly wings to the side of your head.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • You can deepen the stretch by leaning slowly back.
  • Repeat as desired.

The chest up stretch is also a common stretch that many people will perform with very little thought. The stretch will relieve the stress held in your chest, arms, and upper spinal area. It may also help you remember to use good posture.

4. The shoulder shrug

  • Slowly raise your shoulders toward your ears.
  • Hold for 3-5 seconds.
  • Lower your shoulders.
  • Repeat as needed.

This stretch is another spine lengthening stretch. The better your posture, the less stress there is on the vertebra. Proper posture can help prevent back, neck and shoulder pain because the muscles your body uses to maintain your posture can become strained. Strained muscles lead to swelling and discomfort, and, eventually, pain.

5. Upper shoulder/ neck stretch

  • Either sit on one hand or hold the bottom of your chair.
  • Tilt your head in the opposite direction of the hand you have immobilized.
  • Slowly tilt your head forward toward your shoulder.
  • Switch hands and repeat.

Stretching while in your seat is only a small part of keeping yourself comfortable and pain free. Remember to sit comfortably and take frequent standing and/or walking breaks. Go to the bathroom, get yourself a drink, go for a short walk, or stand while talking on your phone. According to the Mayo Clinic, sitting for prolonged periods of time is detrimental to your health and you should make an effort to get up and move every 30 minutes.

The Core of the Matter

Now let's get to the core of the matter. The human body is made up of an intricate system of over 650 named muscles. The muscles that make up the core of your body are essential to spinal health. Back and neck pain can be greatly reduced by doing core strengthening exercises. With a strong core you are also much less susceptible to back injuries. These 5 easy core exercises will help you on your way to a healthier spine and better posture.

1. The elbow plank

  • Lay flat on your stomach with your body in a straight line
  • Place your elbows at a 90 degree angle close to the sides of your body
  • Rest your forearms on the floor and gently push your body up using your forearms.
  • Don't let your back drop and hold up your body in a straight line
  • Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times

Planking is a whole body exercise and will be difficult when you first start out. Start yourself off with a 10-15 second plank and work yourself up to longer and longer planks. If you start off trying to hold the plank for 30 seconds, you may be doing yourself a disservice.

2. Crunch time

  • Lay on your back with knees bent, and feet firmly on the ground.
  • Place your hands behind your head lacing your fingers, if desired.
  • Slowly raise your head off the floor until your shoulder blades are off the floor.
  • Keep your elbows out and chin up (look at the sky not your knees).
  • Slowly lower your head back down to the floor.
  • Repeat 4 times in sets of 25.

Performing crunches is a great way to build up those abdominal muscles, and they can be done virtually anywhere. The slower you perform this exercise, the more muscle strengthening and toning you can achieve.

3. Raised leg crunch

  • Lay on your back
  • Place your hands behind your head lacing your fingers if desired.
  • Lift your feet level with your knees and cross at the ankle.
  • Slowly raise your head off the floor until your shoulder blades are off the floor.
  • Keep your elbows out and chin up (look at the sky not your knees).
  • Slowly lower your head back down to the floor.
  • Repeat 4 times in sets of 25.

There are several variations of the crunch, and you can work different sections of the abdominal muscle with simple changes, like rolling your legs to the side. You can also try having your legs straight up in the air and reach for your toes rather than having your hands laced behind your head.

4. Leg raises

  • Lay flat on your back.
  • Anchor yourself to floor by either placing your hands under the lower part of your back or using a piece of furniture or a partner to hold onto.
  • Keeping your legs straight and ankles together, raise both legs at the same time.
  • If you want to target the lower abdominal muscles, only raise your feet to about knee height. If you desire to work the entire abdominal region, raise your legs to a 90-degree angle
  • Lower your legs and repeat 25 times

This exercise is meant to build muscle. The slower you work, the harder the muscles work. The amounts mentioned for repetitions and hold times are only recommendations and can be adjusted to suite your needs.

5. Push-ups

  • Lay flat on your stomach.
  • Place your hands slightly wider than, but parallel to your shoulders.
  • Keep a straight back and legs. Push through your arms and raise your body.
  • Lower your body slowly to the floor until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
  • Repeat in 2-3 sets of 10 daily.

The push-up, like many exercises, is subject to your abilities and can be modified by performing then on your knees rather than your toes. The exercise strengthens back, neck, abdominal, shoulder, and arm muscles and helps with your posture.

You don't have to suffer from chronic pain to perform these stretches and exercise. A proactive approach to spine health can be helpful for anyone, regardless of ability, job, or lifestyle. A healthy spine is a happy spine, so take care of your back!

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