Don’t let riding your bike become a pain in the…back! According to the World Health Organization, low back pain is the leading cause of activity limitation and work absence throughout much of the world. The lifetime prevalence of nonspecific low back pain is 60-70% in industrialized countries!1
There are many causes of back pain, some of which are complicated and should require direct medical attention, but the large majority of back pain is nonspecific. These types of back pain are often functional and can be combatted or largely diminished with the following preventative exercises. Whether you are new to back pain, have been experiencing it for years, or have never felt so much as a twang or tweek in your back, these exercises help to engage your core and protect your back from aches and pains that come with being human.
Try completing the following exercises 3 or more times per week. Mix and match or complete them all to find your perfect routine that fits your schedule. If any of the exercises are painful do not complete that exercise, just move on to one that you can complete pain-free.
Begin in a quadruped position and lift opposite arm and opposite leg. Hold each position for 5-10 seconds. This exercise has been shown to activate a large number of core muscles. The gluteus medius, multifidus, and spinal erector muscles are used all throughout this exercise.
Even if you have the best 6 pack you’ve ever seen, if your core isn’t engaging in the correct way and in the correct pattern, you might experience back pain. This low impact exercise has a lot of bang for its buck.
The dead bug exercise recruits all of the abdominal muscles equally and has very little activity in the erector spinae so this exercise will likely cause very little pain but still get your abdominal muscles burning. The most important cue to think of when completing dead bug is to keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Make sure that your back to pushed firmly against the floor.
Cat/cow is a very gentle exercise or stretch. It requires light abdominal activation but mostly focuses on moving the body and spine through a large range of motion. Focus on maintaining the stretch all the way through your neck and the top of your head.
Pelvic tilts are very small movements that help to align the pelvis, work on abdominal muscles, and provide lower trunk stability.
Begin by laying on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Imagine that there is a string attached to your belly button and someone is pulling it down into the floor. Then complete the opposite and let it pull gently upward and arch your back ever so slightly.
This exercise is more of a stretch. Since we are often moving only in the sagittal plane (forward and backward) this exercise is a chance to allow your bodies to twist slightly. This stretches the thoracic spine which is often overlooked when it comes to mobilizations and stretching.
Finally, the Thomas stretch is completed by laying on your back and holding one knee to your chest while the other leg remains straight on the ground. This helps to stretch your hip flexors. When it comes to back pain the hip flexors are often forgotten. If the hip flexors are too tight they can pull your pelvis forward and cause an arched back sort of posture which produces extra strain and stress on your back.
Make Painful, Pain Free
Many people have experienced back pain for so long that now they just consider it to be “a part of life.” Don’t give in! Most of the time with the proper attention and care you can find pain free activity. It’ll be a revelation!