If you train and play sports seriously, stress and strain can lead to lower-back pain. Hoping it will just go away can hurt your performance and cause injury.
But you don't want to get overzealous and do exercises that aggravate the problem. You can perform Back Extensions until the cows come home, but all you're doing is making matters worse.
So what now?
Focus on your deep abdominals. Stiffening your spine and bracing your core are crucial for preventing painful spine motion. A weak and unconditioned core will not sustain heavy loads for very long.
With all this in mind, here are five exercises for lower-back pain.
Never sacrifice form to lift or move more load. Movements that begin from there are a recipe for future back pain. To paraphrase Dan John, "Move well, then move often." Check your ego, lighten the load and focus on form.
The Deadlift allows you to exert maximal tension throughout your entire body while you move an appreciable amount of weight. It can bulletproof your entire body if you do it correctly. Technique is key.
2. Suitcase Carry
What you often find is that your lateral core is weak and inhibited. Remember, your core wraps around your entire torso. Strengthening it in all planes of motion is critical for performance and injury resistance.
In addition to challenging your grip strength, offset loading is a great way to engage your lateral core. Pick up a heavy object in one hand and start walking. Trust me, it's harder than it sounds.
3. Side Plank
Another important component for lower-back health and spinal integrity: work on spinal endurance and stability. A great way to do that is to regularly perform Side Planks. This is an excellent exercise that works the lateral aspect of your core by isometrically contracting your deep abdominals and glutes to maintain proper alignment.
4. Pallof Press
If I had a penny for every person I see performing this in a gym, I'd have one penny. More people need to try it. The Pallof Press is an anti-rotation exercise. The core's main function is to resist motion, whereas the upper and lower extremities are meant for movement. Sit-Ups and Crunches have very little carryover to performance and injury protection.
5. Stir the Pot
One of the best core exercises you can do is Stir the Pot. Assume a plank position on a stability ball and create a nice straight line from head to heels. Use your elbows and forearms to rotate the ball around to the left, then the right. This exercise is a challenging way to garner feedback on how to properly engage your anterior core and glutes, which protect your low back.
The ability to stabilize your pelvis in different points of position signals true core strength. When you're in a compromised position, you must be able to stabilize and resist any deviation through the hips and torso.
These exercises are of great benefit for improving low-back health and spinal integrity, and for alleviating severe back pain. But before you do them, it's important to seek a thorough evaluation by a reputable medical professional. Remember, no training program will help if your movement quality is poor and you're hurting.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock