Favorite Physical Therapy Exercises to Treat Lower Back Pain

Physical Therapy as a tool to improve lower back pain.
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I've been recently working through alleviating lower back pain, mostly caused by prolong sitting behind a desk all day at work. After a couple of hours at work, I begin to feel a slight lower back pain. I never thought much about it until I heard multiple instances of coworkers with lower back pain with pain that extended through their legs, some requiring injection and/or surgery. So I decided to get ahead of future health problems by seeing a doctor, who recommended physical therapy.

I attended a total of four physical therapy sessions, which were more helpful than I was expecting. I learned that logging prolong hours sitting weakens the core and gluteus (butt) muscles. So exercises and stretches to improve those weakened muscles is the solution. There are no band aid fixes to lower back pain caused by many years sitting behind a desk.

Below are some of my favorite and most effective stretches and exercises. Some require an optional yoga mat. Other require simple equipment that can be used at home. I chose these stretches and exercise because they were either challenging exercises or tight stretches.

Exercises (optional Yoga Mat)

These are exercises that don't require any equipment. If it's more comfortable, you can consider getting a Yoga Mat.

  1. Opposite Arm and Leg Lift, that works on core stability. The objective is to lift your opposite arm and leg, while keeping your hips completely steady. One of the reasons I like this exercise is it can be used to track improvement on your core muscles.
  2. Piriformis Stretch is a good stretch for weakened gluteus exercises. For my degree of lower back pain, my muscles were very tight.
  3. Bridge, another butt exercise that is simple, but not as effective as an earlier mentioned stretch. It's a good stretch to warm up with.
  4. Plank has been shown to be a better exercise for the core than sit ups. Sit ups, when done incorrectly can do more harm than good. For the plank, the key is good posture (tight core and remember to breath). Aim for one minute.
  5. Similar to the plank, there's the side plank, which works out other muscles in the core. Again, posture is important, don't let your hips sag down. Aim for one minute.


Exercises with a Foam Roller

Here are some good stretches. Many of these stretches work by applying pressure to tight muscles. A foam roller can cost as little as $15 at Amazon. I luckily already had one of these in my house.

  1. Lower and Upper Back Stretch. Just roll left and right on the foam roller. On the left lower back, it hits a tight knot. And the same on the right upper back.
  2. One knee up for core stability. Do 10 reps per side. If you need help, do keep your elbows on the ground in the beginning for stability. As you improve, your core will help stabilize your body while on the foam roller.

Exercises with the TRX System

After learning how to use this system of cables at the physical therapist office, I found it not only effective, but also a good way to work out other muscles in the arm, all of which work on balance. Unfortunately the TRX system is around $150. A substantially cheaper variation made by WOSS is only $40. Both systems come highly rated on Amazon.

  1. Pushup on the TRX system is more challenging than the traditional pushup, because the cables are not steady like the ground. Makes more a more challenging workout.
  2. Pullup on the TRX system follow the same principle as the pushups. The flatter you are to the ground, the more challenging the pull. Remember to watch your form.
  3. Leg workout on the TRX is also incredibly difficult at first, but a good exercise to train your leg muscles.

Final Thoughts on Physical Therapy

My final thoughts on physical therapy is that with the proper instructions and lots of work at home, you can see improvement in as little as a few weeks. The key is to keep up the exercises for as long as you need it. There isn't a band aid fix for lower back pain, so be ready to put in the work. As I master these exercises and stretches, I'll be sure to find more advanced version with the existing equipment.

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