Lumbar injuries, including strains, sprains, and disc injuries, can be debilitating and hinder your daily activities. However, a well-structured rehabilitation program can significantly aid in the recovery process. This blog will delve into specific exercises and stretches that target lumbar injuries, helping to strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, and promote healing.
Lumbar strains, sprains, and disc injuries are common afflictions of the lower back. Strains and sprains occur when the muscles and ligaments in the lumbar region are stretched or torn, often due to sudden movements, lifting heavy objects, or repetitive motions. On the other hand, disc injuries involve damage to the intervertebral discs, such as herniation or bulging, which can result in nerve compression and pain.
Rehabilitation Exercises for Lumbar Injuries:
1.) Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back with knees bent. Slowly tilt your pelvis upward, flattening your lower back against the floor. Hold for a few seconds before releasing. This exercise helps strengthen the abdominal muscles and improves stability.
2.) Cat-Camel Stretch: Position yourself on all fours, hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Arch your back upward, dropping your head and tucking your tailbone (cat pose). Then, reverse the motion, lowering your belly toward the floor, lifting your head, and arching your back (camel pose). This stretch promotes flexibility and mobility in the lumbar spine.
3.) Glute Bridge: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground, engaging your gluteal muscles. Hold the position for a few seconds and then slowly lower your hips back down. The glute bridge strengthens the buttocks and helps stabilize the lumbar spine.
4.) Bird Dog: Begin on all fours, with hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Extend your right arm forward while simultaneously extending your left leg backward. Hold for a few seconds and then switch sides. This exercise improves core strength and stability, targeting the muscles around the lumbar region.
5.) Wall Sit: Stand with your back against a wall and slide down until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold the position for as long as comfortable, then slowly stand back up. This exercise strengthens the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, providing support to the lumbar spine.
6.) Hamstring Stretches: Lie on your back and loop a towel or strap around your foot. Slowly straighten your leg, gently pulling the towel towards you until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs. This stretch helps alleviate tension in the lower back.
7.) Hip Flexor Stretches: Stand with one leg forward and one leg back. Push your hips forward and tilt your pelvis backward (think of pointing your belt buckle up, or think of a scared puppy hiding its tail) until you feel a stretch in the front of the hip. This will stretch the hips and release pressure from the low back.
8.) Child’s Pose: Begin on all fours, then sit back on your heels, reaching your arms forward and resting your forehead on the ground. Hold the position for a minute, focusing on deep breathing and relaxation. Child’s pose gently stretches the lower back and promotes spinal decompression. While the above exercises can be helpful for many people, each exercise has its limitations. Some people may find an exercise easy or too difficult, which may make it less than ideal to progress through lumbar injury. As your control, strength and endurance improves in a given exercise, progressions may be needed to continue building towards optimal strength and function within your chosen activities. For example, a lumbar spine that meets the demands of carrying groceries may not necessarily be ready for lifting children into carriers, or lifting a bicycle onto a bike rack. Working with a therapist that understands your needs can help optimize exercise selection and progress you towards feeling ready for the activities that are most important to you. This may include strengthening with higher level exercises, such as loaded squats, to improve leg strength and build physical competencies above and beyond what they were before injury to help protect against similar injuries in the future.