One of the most debilitating injuries you can suffer is one to your lower back. Not just because pain in that area can affect just about everything else you do (or try to do), but because it is also one of the hardest injuries to rehabilitate, particularly when surgery is necessary. That happens because lifting – one of the essential parts of just about any exercise plan – is usually a no-no with lower back injuries.
But when it comes to lower back difficulties, the main objective in recovery and rehab is to strengthen the areas around the injury, therefore relieving the stress to the injured area, And just because you are restricted in your lifting, that often means much lighter weights , not a total restriction.
Here are a few simple exercises that will go a long way toward making your lower back – and your overall outlook on life, as a result – better:
Walking – Sounds simple, but walking strengnthens the leg muscles, obviously, including the hamstring and thigh muscles that are often impacted by lower back injuries. Twenty minutes on the treadmill, or an easy one-mile jaunt through the neighborhood is a good starting point.
Riding a bicycle – This will also benefit the legs, as long as the rider is careful not to bend at the hips too much.
Swimming – Yet another low-impact way to strengthen the lower body is swimming, particularly standing in water up to your chest and simulating the running motion, with the water serving as resistance.
Band work with the arms – Again, like water in a swimming pool, bands will offer low-level resistance, and there are exercises you can do right in your living room for both the upper and lower body that will help build strength around your injured area. For the upper body, all you need is a band, tied around a doorknob. Stand to one side, knees slightly bent, holding the band in both hands at your waist. Facing the door and making sure to keep your spine steady, do a series of pulls to each side. Then, sit down in a chair, facing the door about five feet away with your back straight, and pull back on the band with both arms, trying to get the feeling of your elbows touching behind your back.
Band work with the legs – As with the arms, form is important – if you have a back brace, wear it to ensure proper positioning. Tie one end of a band around something permanent and low to the ground, like a table leg, and make a loop to fit around your ankle with the other end. A set of four simple exercises is a good place to begin to strengthen both the legs and hip area. These should be done in a rotation, with three sets of 10 on one leg, then switching to the other leg. For the right leg, slip the loop around your right ankle. 1: With left leg closest to the anchor (band tied round table leg), hold left arm out and extend right leg out to the side; 2: Facing the opposite direction as No. 2. 1, bring right leg across your body; 3. Facing the anchor, pull right leg straight back; 4. Facing away from anchor, bringing right leg forward, keeping the knee straight.
Add in a few more quick and easy exercises – such as simple heel raises where, with hands on hips, you raise on the balls of your feet, and step climbing, where you step up with one foot, then down with the other – both done 30 times – and you'll find that the stiff lower back that keeps you from a fun round of golf will begin to feel much better. How you put the ball, well, you're on your own with that one.
NOTE: Always check with your doctor if a back injury is sustained.