Lower back pain is the number one cause for people to drop out of work. According to the World Health Organization, about 60-70% of all people will experience lower back pain at least one time in their life.
Often, there is no specific reason why you’re feeling pain in your back.
We call this nonspecific back pain. You often feel it when bending forward. If this is the case, you can learn here how to lean forward without pain.
But sometimes the cause is apparent. We call this specific low back pain.
And for this type of back pain, it is known that exercises will help you solve this back pain.
And here, I will teach you the different types of nonspecific low back pain and how you can treat it yourself with exercises.
You’ll learn here:
As you can see, it’s a lot, so let’s jump right into it.
- The anatomy of your lower back
- Sciatica causes and treatments
- Herniated disc
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Lower back pain treatment with four exercises
- Osteoarthrosis causes
- Lower back pain after sleeping
- Lower back pain after running
- Lower back pain when standing
- Lower back pain during period
- Lower back pain during pregnancy
The anatomy of your lower back
Your lower back consists of 5 vertebrae. These are the individual bones of your back. It is also known as your lumbar spine.
On the bottom, your lower back connects to your sacrum.
Between these vertebrae are intervertebral discs present on the body of the vertebrae. The last one lies between your lumbar vertebrae and the beginning of your sacrum. This disc is called the L5-S1 disc.
The vertebrae also have a connection with each other. The superior articular process connects with the inferior articular process of the vertebrae above. They form a joint through which your back moves. They are covered with a thick layer of cartilage to smoothen the surface, as is your vertebral body.
Due to the orientation of the bone parts, there is a hole formed on the side of your spine. It is the place where your nerves leave your back. In every segment, there is one nerve present. After abandoning, they form nerves that run through your legs.
Your spinal cord runs through the vertebral foramen.
As you get older, changes start to happen in the anatomy of your lower back. These anatomy changes can influence the mobility of your back and the space for the nerves.
It also decreases the function of the stabilizing muscles in your back. Because they work less efficiently, your big back muscles take over. It makes them stiff, which may also cause lower back pain.
Therefore the following problems might start to occur.
Sciatica causes and treatments
One of the most known terms in describing lower back pain is sciatica.
Sciatica is the term for back pain with radiation in your leg sometimes to the foot. There are many causes of sciatica. Some of these causes lie outside your back like piriformis syndrome.
The term sciatica comes from the nerve in your leg, the sciatic nerve. It runs from your lower back through the back of your leg to your foot.
The following conditions can also cause sciatica:
- A herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Degenerative disc disease
All of these conditions occur due to the degeneration of your lower back.
I will explain to you what exactly happens and what you can do to reduce or even cure your symptoms. I will start with the herniated disc as this is one of the best-known conditions.
A herniated disc occurs when your intervertebral disc breaks.
Here’s what happens exactly:
Your intervertebral disc consist of 2 parts:
- A soft gel-like inner circle
- A hard cartilage outer circle
As you get older, the outer layer of the discus becomes fragile because it loses quality.
When this happens, combined with an increase in forces applied to the intervertebral disc, the outer layer might rupture.
When this happens, the inside of the intervertebral disc can be pushed out.
Because space inside the intervertebral discus is so small, it might put pressure on your nerve. This pressure causes radiation problems in your leg. That results in shooting pain and possible numbness in your leg.
The other thing that can happen is in an inflammatory reaction.
You see, the inner substance of your intervertebral disc has always been sealed off. It means that it didn’t have any contact with the rest of your body.
So when it suddenly happens, it’s sometimes considered a treat to your body. So your body wants to clear it through an inflammatory reaction.
It also affects the nerve, which causes loss of function of your leg, changes in sensation, and pain.
That is when you have a herniated disc that causes problems.
However, a decent amount of herniated discs doesn’t cause any problems at all. So not everything on the MRI might be a problem.
The treatment of a herniated disc focusses on pushing back the inner layer of the intervertebral disc back into place. When this happens, the pressure on the nerve reduces, and the intervertebral disc can recover.
With the right exercises, a herniated disc will usually fully recover within six months. This way, you can often avoid surgery for your back pain.
On our herniated disc page, you can find the complete treatment options, including the right exercises and more information on the condition.
Only when there is no reduction of symptoms, or you experience bladder problems or a significant loss in strength surgery is an option.
Degenerative disc disease
Degeneration of the intervertebral disc causes degenerative disc disease.
As you get older, the amount of water binding fibers in the discus decreases. It means that your intervertebral disc becomes flattered since it can hold less water.
That is also the main reason you shrink when you get older.
What also happens is that your vertebrae get closer to each other. It results in a smaller intervertebral foramen. It will apply pressure on your nerves causing radiation in your leg.
It usually only happens on one side, but it might occur in both legs.
The following symptoms might point out a degenerative disc disease:
- Stiffening of your back
- Radiation into your leg
- More radiation and pain during sitting, standing or walking
- Less radiation when laying down
- Difficulty bending to the side of the radiation
- More radiation when putting more weight on your shoulders
The symptoms occur through decreased space for your nerves.
It’s also a form of spinal stenosis. That is because space occupying degenerative changes in your back causes spinal stenosis. That also includes a herniated disc.
Also, because of the degenerative disc, the stabilizing muscles in your back don’t work as well as they should anymore.
That is why the degenerative disc treatment focusses on increasing the space in your back and restoring mobility and stability.
I will show you which exercises to do in the treatment of spinal stenosis, which I’m about to discuss now.
The surgical option to restore the space in your back is by replacing the intervertebral disc with an artificial one. It is a big surgery with a risk of lasting nerve damage. That’s why you want to avoid this surgery by doing the exercises. I will show you later.
Spinal stenosis causes
As I already told you, space occupation inside the vertebral foramen, also known as the spinal canal, causes your spinal stenosis. The following changes can cause spinal stenosis:
- Herniated disc
- Degenerative disc
- Thickened ligamentum flavum
- Thickened ligament posterior
- Facet arthrosis
- Forming of osteophytes
Al these degenerative changes of your lower back can cause compression of nerves inside of your spinal column.
There are a few things that can contribute to these degenerative changes:
- Poor posture
- Doing heavy work
- A spinal injury in the past
The following symptoms can indicate that you have spinal stenosis:
- Symptoms in both legs
- Leg pain is worse than lower back pain
- Pain during walking and standing
- Less pain when sitting
Also, being older than 50 combined with the above symptoms increases your changes of heaving spinal stenosis.
The reason that you have more problems when standing is that the vertebral canal is smaller when you are in an erect position, then when you bend over.
The treatment of spinal stenosis focusses on increasing the mobility of your back as well as stability.
The reason this works so well is that lack of mobility causes the symptoms due to the degenerative changes. Solving this mobility issue will increase the space within the vertebral column.
During surgery, the surgeon will remove parts of your vertebrae to increase the room. It usually reduces the mobility of your back. It is something you want and can avoid.
The following four exercises work great for increasing the mobility and stability of your lower back, solving lower back pain in many cases.
Lower back pain treatment with four exercises
This lower back pain treatment focusses on improving the mobility, stability, and strength of your lower back to avoid back surgery.
I often see a problem in at least one of these factors.
But training this can take up a long time.
Luckily there is a shortcut to relieve the pain right away.
You can do this by wearing a lower back support brace.
This brace will take over the function of your back muscles.
And this will work great for reducing lower back pain.
When you don’t feel your lower back as much as you did before, it will also make it easier to perform the following lower back pain exercises.
These exercises will make sure you won’t ever feel your back again.
That’s why I went ahead and selected the best lower back brace for you.
And by buying it here, you will also support our site.
So now it’s time to start the exercises.
Lower back pain exercise 1: Stretch your back
It is best to do all of the activities on a yoga mat.
You have to do all of these exercises a few times a day. And it’s best to keep doing them for the rest of your life.
So you want to do it right.
Your bed is too soft to do the exercises the right way. And the floor is too hard.
That’s why I would recommend buying a yoga mat. It is the best and most comfortable way to perform the exercises.
So let’s get started:
This first lower back pain exercise will increase the rotation of your lower back.
Although this is not the most significant movement possible of your lower back, it’s still essential for the function of your muscles.
The exercise goes like this:
- Lay down on your back on a firm surface
- Bend both knees and place your arms in a 90 degrees angle
- Now rotate your knees to one side
- Rotate as far as you can but keep both shoulders on the ground
- Hold this for 10 seconds
- Repeat this five times for both sides
You can also find the exercise on this video.
Repeat this exercise twice a day. You will probably notice that one side goes more natural than the other one.
Lower back pain exercise 2: Increase extension of your lower back
The second exercise is designed to increase extension of your lower back. Flexibility in every direction reduces back pain.
You can perform the exercise like this:
- Lay down on a firm surface
- Place both hands next to your shoulders
- Push your upper body up
- Keep your pelvis on the ground
- Hold this for 3 seconds
- Keep looking forward or even upwards
- Repeat this for 10 seconds
You can also find a video of this exercise.
Also, repeat this exercise twice a day. You will notice that you will get a little higher every day. At first, it might cause pain in your lower back, but this will go away.
Now that the mobility of your lower back is getting better, it’s time to increase the strength and stability of your lower back.
Lower back pain exercise 3: Training the stability of your lower back
The next activity is designed to increase the stability of your lower back.
The stabilizing muscles are trained to work when you move your back.
Unfortunately, they don’t adjust to the degenerative changes without training. Because the vertebrae are closer together the moment, these muscles have to react changes as well.
To correct this, we have to train the muscles properly so they will react in time again.
We’ll use the following exercise for this:
- Lay down on your back on a firm surface with your knees bent
- Cross your arms over your chest
- Lift your pelvis and hold this for 10 seconds
- Repeat this ten times
It is the basic version of the exercise. As you will get better you can increase the difficulty in 2 ways:
- Hold it for 15 seconds
- Extend one leg
You can see how to perform the exercise in this video.
Repeat this exercise twice a day. Build it slowly just in the way I explained in the video.
When you find these exercises a little annoying, or they get to easy I have another suggestion for you here:
You can perform a similar activity on an exercise ball.
You can find it in the picture below.
Because this exercise ball comes with a complete exercise guide, you will now have a dozen lower back stability exercises to choose from. At the same time, you’re supporting this website to stay for free.
And when you can perform the exercise below, I will also guaranty you that your lower back pain is over.
You can also use this ball for the next exercise.
This exercise is also essential in treating a thrown out back.
Lower back pain exercise 4: Increase the strength of your back muscles
The purpose of the last task is to increase the power of your back muscles. Your big back muscles have to work too hard, due to the lack of mobility. By training them again, they will recover, reducing tension and pain.
The exercise goes as follows:
- Lay down facing the floor.
- Now lift your chest, arms, and head of the ground.
- Repeat this ten times.
- Make sure you keep your feet on the ground.
Try to repeat this exercise 3 times. When this is too easy, you can increase the number of repetitions to 15 or 20. Perform this exercise 2 times a day.
These four exercises together will solve most of your back problems. Therefore they are a must do when you experience back pain.
Osteoarthrosis causes and treatment
Another prevalent cause of lower back pain is osteoarthrosis.
Degeneration of the cartilage in your lower back causes osteoarthrosis.
It can be either in de facet joints or at the coverage of the vertebral bodies.
The cartilage in your joint has to essential functions:
- Shock absorption
- The mobility of the joints
Because your cartilage contains a lot of water, it’s great for shock absorption. This way, it protects your bones as well as your intervertebral discs.
The second function is to facilitate the movements of your joints.
It smoothens the surface of your bones, which makes it easier for your bones to slight over each other. That is how your joint moves.
So when the cartilage disappears, it makes it harder for your joints to move and causes a stiff back.
Luckily I have good news for you:
There is a way to compensate for this loss of mobility.
We can’t get the cartilage back yet, but you can do exercises to regain mobility in your back. It just takes a little effort.
That’s why not everyone in their ’80s is old and stiff. It’s mainly a matter of what you do about it yourself. When you get older, it doesn’t come easy anymore, and you have to work for it to stay healthy and mobile.
You can do this by doing the exercises described earlier. It will keep your lower back strong and flexible, preventing lower back pain.
Spondylolisthesis is often a result of the osteoarthrosis I described earlier.
When the cartilage on the facet joint disappears, these facet joints to resist the vertebrae above in its movements.
It makes the vertebrae able to shift forward pulled by gravity. It can increase your hollow back and can also cause a form of sciatica.
You can try to solve this by adjusting your posture and training your back muscles. This way, you can keep your back as straight as possible, reducing lower back pain because of this.
The other option is a lower back surgery where they fixate your spine to prevent your spondylolisthesis from getting worse.
These are the most common causes of lower back pain.
Typically there are a few situations that can cause lower back pain, such as lower back pain after sleeping, lower back pain after walking, or lower back pain after standing.
These all have to do something with the lower back pain causes I described above, and I’m going to tell you everything about it now.
Lower back pain after sleeping
Lower back pain after sleeping is one of the most common problems people with back problems experience.
There are two leading causes of lower back pain after sleeping:
- Old mattress
As you already know now, osteoarthrosis can cause lower back pain because it stiffens your lower back.
This stiffness increases when you don’t move your back for an extended period. That is the case in the morning after a good night’s sleep.
What happens is that the amount of liquids within your joints decreases when you sit still or lay down for a long time. When you start moving again, everything feels stiff and hurts.
When you’ve moved for a bit, your back loosens up, and the pain goes away.
To solve this problem, you can perform the exercises mentioned earlier. This way, your back gets more flexible and also more robust. That will solve the problem.
The second cause for lower back pain after sleeping is an old or lousy mattress.
A standard mattress ‘lives’ for about 10-15 years. After that, it gets too soft and doesn’t support your back enough anymore.
It will form some hole that gives you a lousy position lying in bed. It puts more stress on your lower back during the night, which results in lower back pain after sleeping.
So when you’re sleeping on an old mattress, it just might be time to buy a new bed, and your lower back pain will be over.
Lower back pain after running
Lower back pain after running is a result of the pore stability of your lower back.
Especially during running, your back has to stabilize constantly. It is because every landing on your foot changes the forces on your back. It has to be re-stabilized.
Usually, the small muscles surrounding your lower back do this.
But when these muscles are reacting to slow or don’t have enough endurance, your large back muscles take over the task. They get exhausted very quickly. It results in lower back pain after running.
To solve this problem, you have to retrain the small stabilizing muscles in your lower back.
You can do this by performing the stabilizing exercise I described earlier here. Within a few weeks, this should solve your lower back pain after running.
Lower back pain when standing
Lower back pain when standing can have to causes:
- Poor posture
- Poor lower back stability
Many people have a very passive posture when they stand for an extended period. They lean back when standing.
What happens is that you don’t use your muscles, but more the ligaments that hold your joints together.
The problem with this is that it gives a lot of pressure on the bones and joints in your lower back. It results in pain in your lower back.
The second reason is the weak lower back stability. It makes you unable to stay up straight in the first place because it causes exhaustion. To avoid this, you will adjust to a more passive posture.
To solve your lower back pain when standing, you should correct these two things:
- Improve your posture
- Increase your stability
For good posture, you need to pay attention to the following items when standing:
- Place your body weight on the back of your feet
- Slightly bend your knees
- Pull your stomach in
- Stretch up your chest
- Lift your head
In this video, you can see how to correct yourself and what good posture is.
At first, it will feel weird because your body tells you it’s wrong. It will take two weeks of good practice to make it feel normal.
You can do this by continually correcting yourself on your posture. After a while, you will feel that you stand correctly without thinking about it.
It can also be tiring at first, but this will get over soon as well.
You can find the stability exercise here.
Lower back pain during period
Lower back pain during a period is a form of so-called referred pain.
Referred pain means that you feel pain somewhere but that the cause for this pain lies somewhere else.
That is the case in lower back pain during your period.
It works like this.
When you have your period, things change in your uterus. The changes result in pain.
The problem is that your brain has a hard time to localize the signals correctly. That’s because your uterus is innervated poorly by your nerves.
Your lower back, however, is well innervated by nerves.
So your brain projects the pain that is caused in your uterus back on your back. That is why you feel lower back pain during your period.
What helps with this are usually painkillers specifically designed for this type of pain. When your period is over again, the back pain will disappear as well.
Lower back pain during pregnancy
The last thing I will discuss here is lower back pain during pregnancy.
When you become pregnant, your body starts to change. In early pregnancy, the lower back pain will mainly be caused by referred pain from your uterus, just like when you have your period.
Later during the pregnancy, when gain weight and your back starts to get unstable, the changes in posture will be the main reason for lower back pain.
Therefore there are two things you should do:
- Improve your posture
- Improve the stability
As you can see, these are the same things as when you have lower back pain when standing. That is because the problem is more or less the same.
That’s why the solution will be more or less the same as well.
The only thing is that at some point this won’t work anymore. That will be in the last four weeks of your pregnancy. At this point, you have to sit it out and wait till it’s over.
As you can see, there are many causes and solutions for lower back pain to avoid surgery.
If you still have questions left after all this information you can send me an e-mail.
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