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Medically reviewed by TJ Snediker, DPT, TPI
2020-05-08

A back strain occurs when muscles that support the spine are pulled or torn. The pain you experience may range from mild to severe, depending on the seriousness of the injury. 

Symptoms of a back strain:

  • Stiffness

  • Difficulty walking or bending

  • Muscle spasms

  • Pain which expands into the gluteal and hip muscles

According to the National Institute of Health, certain factors can put a person at a higher risk for a back strain. These include: 

  1. Being overweight

  2. Smoking

  3. Poor posture

  4. Weak back or abdominal muscles due to low-activity levels.

Diagnosis

Back strains are typically diagnosed based on medical history and a review of the symptoms and how the injury occurred. Your doctor may recommend x-rays or other imaging tests to rule out the possibility of a herniated (bulging) disk .

Treatment

In addition to medicine, dietary  supplements and other treatments, exercise can be greatly beneficial to heal a muscle strain. It is a myth that you have to rest for extended periods and avoid activity after a back injury. In fact, that is usually not recommended. 

Here are 5 exercises for back strain that are recommended by experts:

  • The abdominal tuck

  • Core marching

  • Single knee to chest

  • Child’s pose 

  • Bird dog hip extension 

Before starting these exercises, make sure to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Make sure you are pain-free, or your pain is tolerable. 

  2. Find a comfortable place to perform this routine.

  3. If you have severe pain, call your doctor.

Warm-up: Abdominal Tuck

Why it’s beneficial: 

It is recommended that you warm-up before exercise, as doing so helps with flexibility, blood flow, and improves performance. The abdominal tuck is designed to increase your core body temperature. It warms up the transverse abdominal muscles and supports tissues surrounding the core. 

Try it: 

  1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat.

  2. Place one hand lightly on your belly (abdomen) and tighten your abdominal muscles, pulling them towards your spine.

  3. Make sure you are not holding your breath.

Perform two sets of ten repetitions.

Modification: If this causes any discomfort, sit or stand while performing it.

Core Marching

Why it’s beneficial:  Your core consists of muscles around your abdomen, back, and pelvis. Research shows that core stabilization exercises are more effective than traditional physical therapy routines at reducing low back pain. Core marching activates these muscles in a gentle, pain-free position.

Try it:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent.

  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift one knee towards your chest.

  3. Alternate between legs.

Modification: If this causes you any discomfort, try sitting instead of lying down. 

Single Knee to Chest 

Why it’s beneficial: Having tight or shortened glutes forces your lower back muscles to work hard, which can lead to pain. The single knee to chest is designed to stretch your gluteus maximus muscles. 

Try it: 

  1. Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent.

  2. With both hands, reach in front of one knee and pull it towards your chest, holding for 20-30 seconds. 

  3. Repeat on the other side. 

Modification: If this causes you any discomfort, place your hands behind your knees and pull them towards your chest while holding your hamstring.

Child’s Pose 

Why it’s beneficial: After a back strain,  this popular yoga pose can be helpful  in easing pain and can improve overall flexibility. Child’s pose stretches the low back muscles, including the lumbar extensors. 

Try it: 

  1. Kneel on a mat with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart.

  2. Reach forward and extend your hands beside your torso with your head resting on the mat.

  3. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Perform two sets.

Modification: Sit in a chair and lean forward until a gentle stretch is felt. 

Bird Dog Hip Extension

Why it’s beneficial: The bird dog hip extension is designed to improve low back stability. It also helps to reactivate and stabilize your abdominal muscles during movement. 

Try it: 

  1. Kneel on a mat with both hands down and arms shoulder-width apart.

  2. Start by engaging and tightening your core muscles.

  3. Slowly straighten one leg behind you while maintaining a flat back.

  4. Return the straightened leg back to the starting position.

  5. Repeat on the other side.

Perform 10 repetitions, while holding each for 20-30 seconds. 

Modification:  If this causes any discomfort, lift your leg only several inches off the ground rather than reaching full extension.

How Goodpath Can Help

A back strain can be a painful and frustrating situation. These movements are designed to lessen your discomfort from the injuries.

In addition to these exercises, there are other solutions that can help ease your back pain. 

Take Goodpath’s personalized assessment today. After analyzing your answers, we will build you a personalized treatment plan based on your medical history, your symptoms, and your lifestyle.