Back pain can be terrible experience and can range from dull aching mild pain to sharp, severe pain. Lumbar pain is often a result of imbalance of muscles of the back and hips, injuries or postural problems. Regular movements and your daily activities get compromised with back-pain. In order to maintain a healthy and stable spine, it is necessary for the lumbar vertebrae to stay in the 'neutral spine position', which means they should be perfectly balanced. Lumbar stabilization exercises are done in an effort to improve muscle balance and flexibility of your back. However, lumbar stabilization exercises are not as simple as a set of exercises to follow at home and must be done under the supervision of an expert.
Back pain or other problems arising due to lumbar instability often need proper medical evaluation, appropriate treatment and physiotherapy. Lumbar stabilization exercises are a part of such a therapeutic program and are advised according to the condition of the patient.
Lumbar stabilization exercises are imparted through a complete lumbar stabilization program, which includes proper medical consultation and evaluation to plan an individual exercise system. The patient learns about their body, their posture and movements. Fixing back injuries is something that can take months and a holistic exercise and awareness system is much required.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises & Phases of Lumbar Stabilization Program
A complete lumbar stabilization program consists of three basic phases.
- Lumbar Stabilization Phase One – This is when the physical therapist and the patient work together to locate the patient's spinal neutral position. This is the position in which the spine feels most stable, without any discomfort. This makes it easy to plan the further course of lumbar stabilization exercises. The neutral position reduces the risk of injury to the spinal structure and tension on the spinal joints, provides functional stability, and hence leads the way for initial healing. The physical therapist may advise some lumbar stabilization exercises in this position to begin with.
- Lumbar Stabilization Phase Two – This is when the patient begins general lower back training exercises, while maintaining their neutral position. The trunk strengthening exercises engages and activates core and local muscles. The difficulty levels of lumbar stabilization exercises at this stage can be increased by the therapist depending on their performance and comfort level.
- Lumbar Stabilization Phase Three – During this phase the patient moves up to functional and work or sport-specific training. It can be tempting to skip out on this phase once the patient feels confident about his strength. However, if that happens, there is a high chance that the symptoms will come back once regular life is resumed. Hence, the final phase should never be neglected.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises
Some lumbar stabilization exercises can be done at home to obtain relief from mild back pain. However, these should be done with great caution and only as advised.
Some of the most important lumbar stabilization exercises have been listed below. These are best practiced with medical advice and with proper guidance.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises #1: Hamstring Stretches
Tightness of the hamstring muscles leads to increased stress in your lower back. Stiff hamstring muscles can ruin your posture, affect balance and cause back pain. Hamstring stretches are one of the basic lumbar stabilization exercises, are low in intensity and do not require much effort. They can be done anywhere and at any fitness level.
- Lay down on your back. Keep your knees bent and your soles on the ground.
- Maintain your neutral spine position.
- Slowly exhale, as you lift your right leg to the sky.
- Hold your right leg straight upwards. You may support your thighs with both hands.
- Stretch your leg as much as you can.
- Hold for 30 counts.
- Repeat the same with the other leg. This constitutes a single rep.
- Perform 3-5 repetitions.
A standing hamstring stretch is a relatively simpler lumbar stabilization exercise.
- Stand straight.
- Exhale, and bend forward at your waist.
- Ensure that your legs remain straight, no bending the knees. Your arms should be hanging down near your toes.
- Push yourself towards the ground until you feel your hamstring stretch.
These are simple yet effective lumbar stabilization exercises and can be performed at the beginner level.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises #2: Pelvic Tilt
Pelvic tilts are also one of the basic lumbar stabilization exercises, which allow the contraction of the muscles located at the base of the abdomen. This particular muscle, called the transverse abdominis, supports your spine. Pelvic tilts help strengthen that muscle, and help massage your back.
- Lay down on your back, on a flat surface, on a yoga mat.
- Lay down with your arms by your sides, and your knees bent.
- Your heels need to be apart at hip-wide distance.
- It is advised to keep your right palm under the curve of the back, in order to really feel the displacement and motion of the back muscles.
- Exhale, and gently lift your hips as if tilting towards your face.
- This movement pushes your lower back into the floor, but does not raise your posterior.
- Press your lower back into the floor.
- Retain this position for 5 seconds. Release, and inhale.
- Repeat the exercise ten times to make a set.
Although a basic lumbar stabilization exercise, this can help to relax back muscles and can offer great relief from low back pain.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises #3: Hip Bridges
While being an excellent exercise for your posterior and your thighs, the hip bridges exercise is also great for stretching and strengthening the lumbar spine. Apart from being a superb lumbar stabilization exercise, it also helps you to work on your balance.
- Lie on an even surface, atop a yoga mat.
- Ideally, place a tiny cushion under your head to support your neck.
- Keep your knees bent and your soles flat on the floor.
- Keep your arms stretched by your sides. Leave your palms up to incorporate an additional core workout.
- Engage your abdominal muscle like that in the earlier exercise. Exhale, and slowly lift your hips off the ground, towards the ceiling.
- Keep your soles pressed firmly to the ground, so as not to slip.
- Inhale, and let your body down slowly towards the floor.
- Do ten repetitions to make a complete set.
This lumbar stabilization exercise can provide great relief from back pain and when practiced regularly can reap great benefits.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises #4: Supine Twist
This is yet another wonderful lumbar stabilization exercise, which helps to build strength and also improves balance.
- Lie on your back, atop a yoga mat.
- Keep your knees bent at 90 degrees. Press your soles into the floor.
- Inhale, and rotate knees to your left side.
- Make sure your upper body remains in the same position on the mat and does not tilt.
- The side of your knees and hips should be touching the floor.
- Exhale, and pull your knees back to the center position.
- Repeat the same movement on your right side.
- Keep your abdominal muscles engaged throughout the exercise.
- Repeat one total movement 10 times to make a set.
Lumbar Stabilization Exercises #5: Supine Dead Bugs
These lumbar stabilization exercises are a great way to relax your back and improve your balance and co-ordination.
- Lie on your back, on a yoga mat with arms by your sides.
- Keep your knees bent at 90 degrees and soles touching the mat.
- Inhale and engage your abdominal muscles throughout the exercise.
- Lift one arm towards the ceiling and stretch it above your head.
- Simultaneously, lift the opposite leg from the ground, and stretch your knee towards your face.
- Bring both the arm and the leg to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement on the opposite side.
- A complete movement on both sides makes a rep. Do 10 reps for a complete set.
These are just a handful of lumbar stabilization exercises that help to protect your spine, and strengthen your back muscles. Ensure that you have received your physician's full consent before going ahead with any of the exercises. A dedicated ritual series of these, mixed with regular stretching sessions, will have your back feeling stronger soon enough!