5 Exercises to Prevent Back & Spinal Injuries
Research shows that nearly two million people suffer a back injury each year, and that 80% of adults will injure their back at least once. From strained muscles and herniated discs to arthritis, a back injury can reduce mobility and productivity, even after it is fully healed. Fortunately, you can prevent back injuries by learning what causes back pain in the first place and how to protect against it. One of the best ways to prevent injury and protect yourself from lower back pain is by doing lower back exercises each day.
What causes lower back pain?
Imagine waking up on a beautiful Saturday morning – the sun is shining, birds are singing, and the only thing you want to do is go for a hike. You eagerly throw on your hiking boots, pack a lunch, and head to the mountains. After a few miles of uphill hiking, you begin to feel a dull ache in your lower back. Ignoring it, you push on until you reach the summit and take in the stunning views. As you start your descent, the pain intensifies, and you realize you may have injured your lower back.
This is just one example of what can cause back pain to show up in our lives. If our back muscles aren’t properly strengthened, pain and injury can result even from something as simple as a morning hike. This is why it is so important to integrate lower back exercises into your regular exercise routine and to take proper precautions such as stretching, using the correct form, and taking breaks from sitting or standing. These can all prevent lower back pain from becoming a chronic issue.
Common causes of back pain or injury:
- Physical activity
- Poor posture
- Improper lifting technique
- Inadequate exercise
5 Best Exercises to Prevent Back Pain
1. Hip Bridges
If you’re looking to understand how to prevent back pain, hip bridges are a great place to start. Hip bridges are one of the best exercises for lower back pain because they engage your core muscles, including the muscles of the lower back, as well as the gluteals to stabilize your spine and maintain proper form. This, in turn, helps improve posture and reduces the risk of back injuries.
How to do them:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground.
- Keep your hands by your sides.
- Tighten your abdominal and buttock muscles by pushing your low back into the ground.
- Press down through your heels to lift your hips off the ground while keeping your back straight.
- With or without a resistance band, lift your hips while keeping your spine neutral by not arching your back.
- Pause at the top of the movement.
- Squeeze your glutes as tightly as possible in the top position while you hold for a few seconds.
- Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground in a controlled motion without releasing the tension in your abs and glutes.
- Repeat the movement 10 times for 3 sets.
The Superman exercise is another great way to stave off lower back pain because it effectively engages muscles of the lower and upper back, shoulders, and more. This exercise also specifically targets the erector spinae muscles, which provide direct support to the lower back. Therefore, strengthening these muscles reduces the risk for spinal injury.
How to do it:
- Lie face down on an exercise mat with your legs straight and your arms straight over your head.
- Keep your arms long without locking your elbows.
- Engage your core muscles by pulling your belly button towards your spine.
- Slowly lift your arms, legs, and chest off the ground simultaneously while squeezing your glutes. Keep your spine neutral without arching your back.
- Hold the position for a few seconds at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower back down to the starting position.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
3. Cat Cow
Frequently found within Yoga practices, the Cat Cow exercise is a great exercise for preventing lower back pain because, like Supermans, it targets the erector spinae muscles in addition to increasing flexibility of the spine, hips, shoulders, and chest. This extension exercise not only relieves tension in your spine, but it also regulates breathing, strengthens abdominals and obliques, and helps you maintain proper posture overall.
Here’s how to do it:
- Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Inhale and arch your back, lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling while allowing your belly to sink towards the floor.
- Exhale and round your spine, tucking your chin towards your chest and bringing your tailbone towards your knees.
- Repeat the movement, flowing smoothly between the two positions, for at least 5 repetitions.
4. Good Mornings
Good Mornings are a fitness exercise that anyone looking to understand how to prevent back injuries should know. Good Mornings prevent lower back pain by strengthening the muscles of the lower back, hips, and glutes. Done with either a weight, like a kettlebell, or just body weight, doing Good Mornings can increase your spinal stability while building up the strength of your back muscles. This, in turn, reduces the risk of lower back pain or injury.
How to do them:
- Start with a light weight or no weight at all, especially if you are new to the exercise or have a history of back pain.
- Keep your core tight and your back straight throughout the movement.
- Focus on sitting your hips back and bending at the hips, rather than rounding your back, and be careful to not go past parallel.
- Keep your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.
- Perform the exercise with proper form and avoid common mistakes, such as using too much weight or rounding your back.
5. Bodyweight Squats
If learning how to help back pain is your goal, then you’ll want to be sure to integrate bodyweight squats into your daily routine as well. When performed correctly, bodyweight squats strengthen lower back muscles, hips, and glutes. This can effectively reduce existing lower back pain while strengthening muscles to reduce the risk for injury.
How to do them:
- Maintain proper form and technique throughout the movement.
- Engage your core muscles and maintain a neutral spine.
- Keep your knees behind your toes and your weight on your heels.
- Stop the squatting motion when your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- Start with no weight at all and gradually increase to holding weights as your strength and technique improve.
- Seek guidance from a fitness professional if you are new to squatting or unsure about your form.
What Does a Physiatrist Do for Back Pain?
Many people are unaware of what a physiatrist can do for back pain.
To evaluate and treat back pain or the potential for injury, a physiatrist will take a complete medical history, perform a comprehensive musculoskeletal and neurological physical exam, and in some cases order imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI. A physiatrist will then develop a personalized pain management and rehabilitation treatment plan based on your exact diagnosis and specific needs. This plan may include individualized physical therapy prescriptions, interventional spine injections, non-opiate medications, and surgery in rare cases.
It’s important to remember that seeking help for lower back pain is something that you shouldn’t put off, especially if it is reducing your function. Pain can greatly impact our daily lives, and it is important to take the necessary steps to address it. With the help of a back pain specialist, you can find relief and get back to enjoying all the things you love to do.
When to Consult with an Arizona Back Pain Specialist
Knowing how to prevent back pain can be a bit of a moving target, especially if you’ve dealt with lower back pain before. While lower back exercises can certainly help to alleviate minor discomfort, you may need to see a specialist if the pain persists.
Here are some indicators that it may be time to seek the help of a back pain specialist in Scottsdale:
- Pain persists for more than a few weeks or seems to be getting worse.
- The pain impacts your daily life, including work, exercise, and household activities.
- Pain is accompanied by numbness or tingling in your legs, weakness, or loss of bladder/bowel control.
- You have tried various home remedies, including rest, stretching, and over-the-counter medication, but have not experienced relief.
- You have a history of back pain or spine issues.
If any of the above applies to you, it may be time to see a specialist. Reach out to our office to schedule a consultation today.