One good way to support and protect your lumbar spine is to strengthen your lower back and core muscles. A physical therapist or spine specialist can recommend exercises that address your specific condition. Here are two exercises that may be suggested as part of your treatment program:
Arm/leg raises help build resilience in your lower back muscles. You can practice this exercise while lying on your stomach.
- Lie on your stomach with your chin or forehead to the ground (you can use a towel underneath). Keep your legs straight and arms extended overhead.
- Slowly raise one arm off the ground, hold for a moment, and lower it back to the ground.
- Now repeat this for your other arm and legs, 5 repetitions each.
You may prefer to perform a similar, alternative exercise on your hands and knees. This option requires a bit more balance.
- Get on your hands and knees. Keep your spine straight, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees aligned directly under your hips.
- Reach out with 1 arm and keep it straight and level. At the same time, extend the leg on your opposite side, keeping it straight and level.
- Hold for a few deep breaths, then gently lower your arm and leg to starting position.
- Repeat this exercise with your other arm/leg. Try for 3 to 5 repetitions on each side.
In yoga, this exercise is called the bird-dog pose.
The hook-lying march is an example of a lumbar stabilization exercise. It’s a great way to strengthen your lower back and core muscles, taking pressure off your spinal discs.
- Lie on your back with your arms at your side, knees bent, and feet planted flat on the ground.
- Tighten your stomach muscles and think about pulling your belly button in toward your spine. This will help flatten your lower back against the ground. Maintain this position throughout the exercise.
- Alternate slowly raising each leg 3 or 4 inches off the ground and holding for a brief moment. It should look like you’re marching.
- Do this exercise for 30 seconds, and aim to complete 2 or 3 sets.
There are more advanced exercises you can perform from this position, but the hook-lying march is a good place to start, especially if you’re recovering from an injury or back surgery.
Tips for lower back exercises
Keep these pointers in mind when you do your lower back exercises:
- Talk to a doctor or physical therapist first. These health care providers can show you which exercises work best for your unique situation. They can also help you practice the correct technique for each exercise to prevent injury.
- Supplement your lower back exercises. You may want to incorporate gentle stretching and low-impact aerobics into your treatment program. These activities are important for flexibility and conditioning.
- Listen to your body. You may feel sore for a couple days after exercising, especially if you’re new to it. But if you feel pain during these exercises, stop immediately. Don’t push through the pain, schedule a doctor appointment instead. Either the exercise isn’t right for you, or your form is incorrect, which can aggravate the pain.
There are a number of exercises you can do to build lower back strength, so be sure to meet with your doctor about which ones best suit your condition.