Lower back pain and stiffness affect athletes and non-athletes of all ages. But it is particularly troublesome for athletes, since it hampers their sports performance, even forcing them to miss practices and games.
Lower back pain can be caused by a multitude of issues, among them weak core muscles and tight hamstrings and glutes. Often, the cause is not directly related to the back. Rather, the back must compensate for a problem elsewhere in the body.
Fortunately, several methods can be used to reduce or eliminate lower back pain. The number one way is simply to stand up and move around. Sitting puts your lower back in a compromising position—particularly if your shoulders and neck are hunched forward. So if you've been sitting for a long period of time, stand up and walk around. It will do wonders for you and your back in the long run.
If you want a more permanent solution to lower-back pain, you need to strengthen your core and regularly stretch your lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Use the stretching routine below to keep your lower back pain-free!
Lower Back Stretching Guidelines
- Make sure your muscles are properly warmed up before stretching. Jogging in place for one to two minutes and performing Arm Circles for one to two minutes should get the blood flowing to all of your muscles
- Make sure you are hydrated. Dehydration can actually cause spinal disks to compress and become stiff. Hydration ensures that your stretches will be more effective, and also reduce stiffness and pain
- Stretch to a comfortable range without pain, and do not exceed the range of motion or bounce during the stretch
- Inhale and exhale when going into a stretch to reduce tension
- Hold each stretch for 10 to 15 seconds
Five-Minute Daily Lower Back Stretch Program
Single-Leg Low Back and Hamstring Stretch Series
Lie with back on ground. Bend right knee, grasp with hands and pull to chest. Keep opposite leg on ground. Hold for specified time. Straighten knee so leg is straight up in the air and flex foot. Pull leg toward chest to stretch hamstring. Hold for specified time. Grasp right leg with left hand and pull to side onto ground. Reach to the right with right hand and look to the right. Hold for specified time. Repeat series with opposite leg.
Lie on back. Cross right leg over left. Bend left knee to bring it toward left shoulder. With both feet flexed, reach both hands around back of left leg. Lower shoulders and head to ground and pull leg. Hold for specified time.
Lie with back on ground. Bend knees and pull to chest. Hold position for specified time.
Jim Carpentier is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, a New Jersey-licensed massage therapist and a health/fitness writer. He currently serves as associate health and wellness director at the Greater Morristown YMCA in Cedar Knolls, N.J.
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