Exercises for Lower Back Pain for Seniors

Over two thirds of adults will experience significant back pain at some point in their lives. This is mostly due to muscle spasms in the musculature attached to the spine. In addition, pain, numbness, tingling, shooting nerve pain into the buttock and legs can also be related to the back. Exercises for lower back pain can greatly help reduce or eliminate these symptoms.

An early exercise program of gentle exercises for improving mobility including stretches can help decrease the severity, duration and the recurrence of pain.This is especially true when we focus on the muscles of the legs and back.

  1. Cat and Camel.
  2. Good Morning.
  3. Chair Bird Dog.
  4. Chair Bridge.
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Gentle and early exercise is indicated if your pain has subsided enough to allow for movement in your low back and legs. If you still have pain in your low back, do not begin strengthening at this point. Continue with other modalities to reduce your pain first. Checking with your doctor is a good first step after a flare up of back pain. Your doctor will let you know if it is safe to start physical therapy or a home low back exercise program.

Exercise 1

Cat and Camel. Begin by assuming a quadruped position on the mat.  Inhale through the nose deeply. Exhale and begin to arch your back while looking down between your knees. Hold this position for 3 seconds, then begin to move in the opposite direction, lifting head and flattening your back. If possible, rotate your hips forward, (anterior tilt), and bring your belly button toward the ground. This will encourage a reverse arch in your back. Hold this position for 3 seconds, then return to a neutral position. Repeat 3 times.

Exercise 2

Good Morning.  Begin in the standing position, feet hip width apart, arms at sides. Slowly bend at the hips with a hinge movement, keeping a straight back, head in line with your spine, knees soft and a little flexed. Next extend your arms out in front and toward the ground or the bottom of the wall in front of you. If you have weights, start with a light dumbbell. Keep your core tight, belly button against spine. Breathe naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, then relax and return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times.

Exercise 3

Chair Bird Dog. Begin by standing facing the seat of your chair. Reach down with both hands and hold the seat on either side. Stabilize your core muscles, tighten your abdominal muscles, bring your belly button to your spine. Slowly lift your opposite arm and leg toward the wall in front and behind you. Hold briefly and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Try to maintain your hips and spine as still as possible without side to side movement. Keep your core tight and breath naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Exercise 4

Chair Bridge. Begin by sitting tall in your chair, hands at sides, chest lifted, chin up, breathing naturally in through your nose and out through your mouth. Place your feet flat on the floor below your knees. Holding on to the side of the chair with both hands, lift your bottom off the seat and bring your hips forward off the front edge of the chair. Continue with this motion elevating your hips as high as comfortable. Hold briefly and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times. Maintain tight core during the exercise, belly button to spine.

Some treatment options for your pain include easy things to do like resting and avoiding activities that aggravate your back. Thermal modalities like applying ice to your back for 15 minutes every one or two hours is helpful in reducing pain and spasms. Heat is something you should avoid for the first 48 to 72 hours if your injury just happened and is in the acute stage. Positioning and posture can also help reduce your pain. Make sure your sleeping surface is firm to give good support of your spine. Use a small pillow between your knees if lying on your side, and a few pillows under your calves if sleeping on your back. This will relieve the pressure on your low back.

Preventing low back pain in the first place is also something to incorporate into your daily activities. The primary action we can take is to work on correcting our posture as we go about our day. It is all about posture. Several times a day, think about bringing your chest up, your chin up, bringing your shoulders up, back and down, and bringing your belly button to your spine.

You may also need to see your doctor for medication. He may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, Advil, Aleve, Ibuprofen or Naproxen sodium.

Also think of how you lift things at home. Generally we don’t want to simply bend over and pick up a heavy thing from the ground. Hinge forward from the hips with a straight back, head in line with the spine. Bend the knees and keep your knees behind your toes to protect your knees.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to see other exercises or senior fitness content. You can leave your comments and suggestions on my About Page. Need personal help? Check out my new Academy. Exercise is really your magic pill to feel better and live longer. Remember to stay active, stay strong, and stay connected!

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Doug Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.