Is your back bothering you? Research shows that moving more can be the best medicine. Here, four ways to send pain packing.
WHAT'S THE PROOF? A recent study found that stretching is just as effective as yoga at reducing back pain.
WHY IT WORKS Stretching of any kind, whether static (you hold the pose) or dynamic (you move through a complete range of motion), can help improve flexibility and decrease back-pain risk and symptoms.
TRY THIS MOVE: HALF LUNGE
Stretches hips, calves
Stand with feet staggered, left leg in front. Bend front knee about 90 degrees and lower back knee a few inches from floor. Press right hip forward, feeling a stretch along front of hip. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch sides.
WHAT'S THE PROOF? Two recently published studies found that people who practiced yoga had less pain and more mobility than those who simply followed a self-care book on back-pain relief.
WHY IT WORKS Yoga combines stretching with strength and balance poses, which help shore up weak muscles and release tight ones. It's also a stress reliever; tension can lead to a tight back.
TRY THIS MOVE: CHILD'S POSE
Stretches back; improves relaxation
Sit on heels, knees hip-distance apart. Exhale and lower torso between thighs. Reach arms forward. Hold for about 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Strength Training
WHAT'S THE PROOF? Physical therapists have long advocated doing traditional resistance training (using body weight only, bands, dumbbells, or machines) to improve strength and regain function, especially for everyday activities.
WHY IT WORKS It stabilizes and strengthens your entire body. "Back pain can occur when muscles are not prepared for a certain movement, whether that's lifting a heavy box or carrying a child," says A. Lynn Millar, PT, PhD, a professor of physical therapy at Winston-Salem State University.
TRY THIS MOVE: BODY SQUAT
Strengthens legs, glutes, core
Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Bend knees, shifting hips back as if sitting into a chair, and lift arms. Hold for 1 count; return to start. Do 10 to 15 reps.
WHAT'S THE PROOF? A small Canadian study found that patients with nonspecific lower-back pain who did a Pilates workout for 4 1/2 hours a week reported significantly less pain and disability 1 year after starting the program than those who simply followed a doctor's care.
WHY IT WORKS Pilates strengthens the core muscles that support the spine, decreasing your risk of injury. It also boosts flexibility, making it easier to move without pain.
TRY THIS MOVE: PELVIC TILT
Strengthens pelvic floor, deep abdominals; stretches lower-back muscles
Lie faceup on floor, knees bent, ankles under knees. Exhaling, gently tilt hips up slightly, keeping butt on floor and flattening spine. Hold for a few seconds, then inhale and return to neutral (starting) position. Do 5 to 10 reps.