Ending Lower Back Pain: Core & Back Strengthening for Seniors

Hi there. I'm Doctor. Keller Wortham here, again, with another home edition of house call. And today, I have another pop quiz for you. What do you think is the most common pain complaint that I get in my office? Which part of the body?

If you said back, specifically low back pain, then you are right. Back pain is by far the most common pain complaint I get in my office. And it can lead to countless days of missed work, of procedures, and drugs, and surgeries. And it's really frustrating because so much of bad pain, especially low back pain can be prevented and even treated using some basic exercises to strengthen and stretch the core and the leg muscles.

So I want you to pay attention today because I've got two specific categories of exercises that if you implement now, you're gonna do a great job of preventing injury to your back and preventing pain in your back. Or if you're already suffering from back pain, then just putting these exercises into practice can save you a lot of hassle and potentially some very risky procedures and medications.

Okay, so specifically there are two kind of main categories that I talk about when I talk about exercises for back pain. Exercises that strengthen the core, and then exercises that stretch out the back, and especially the low back muscles and the muscles of the upper legs. So they're not too tight. Today, I'm going to show you some of both.

But before we get into it, let's let's define core. What do we mean when we talk about the core? Well, really what we're meaning is core muscles. And those are basically the groups of muscles that link your upper and your lower body.

Now, a lot of people when they hear core, they first think of their abs, but it's not just your abdominals. It's your low back muscles, your side muscles, muscles part of the pelvis, part of the hips, the buttocks.

So these include your rectus abdominis, is your six pack, but also your internal and external obliques, and your transverse abdominis, even deeper in there, your erector spine a, which are kind of the big group of muscles, the long group of muscles that go up and down the back. And then your psoas, which a deep pelvic muscle, and your glutes, also known as the buttock muscles. Incidentally, these groups of muscles are the same groups that we are going to target when we talk about our stretching and our strengthening exercises.

So if you engage in strenuous exercise, you're already inherently strengthening your core. Because we tend to squeeze and brace our core when we're bracing to do other activities. But you don't have to be a power lifter to strengthen your core. And in fact, if you already suffer from some back issues, then you want to stay away from those heavy power lifting exercises.

So I'm gonna show you today some exercises that are easy and yet very beneficial at toning up that central part of your body. And protecting you against pain and injury of your low back. Incidentally, these exercises also help to enhance balance. Which prevents falls and supports good posture.

So before we start, just a couple basic tips to guide your exercise. Number one, warm up. Okay. Cold muscles tear easier. So don't just go right into an exercise if you hadn't gotten the blood flowing first.

Number two, form. Make sure that you're using proper form. We'll talk specifically in each exercise on how to do that. Part of using proper form means engaging the core muscles to kind of protect the alignment of the spine.

Number three, feel no pain.

Now you may feel a low level of a burn when you're doing these exercises But I tell my patients if it's more than a three on the pain scale than you're going too far. And number four, brace yourself for the movement. Little bit about what I mentioned before, but that just means, you know, to really have, like, that core engaged, that's your, like I said, your abdomen, your paraspinal muscles, your buttock muscles, so that everything is kind of really prepped, braced, and ready to go.

So some equipment that I'm going to use today, if you want to get yours ready, a squeeze ball. I've got a twelve inch squeeze ball back there. If you don't have that, you can find a a kids, you know, sports ball like a soccer ball or a volleyball, a chair, a yoga mat, which I'll bring out in a moment, in a moment, and a yoga strap. If you don't have a yoga strap, you can use a towel or a belt. Alright. Let's get started.

Okay. So to start, I'm gonna show you five core exercises.

Five exercises to strengthen your core. The first is plank pose, which you can do on your elbows.

So for plank pose, you're basically gonna have your forearms down resting on my elbows here. I want my arms parallel, my palms down on the floor, and then basically I'm gonna just kick up onto my toes, When I do this, I wanna feel all of my core muscles engage, your abdominal muscles, your buttock muscles, your low back muscles. The idea is to be straight as you can, not to let your back sag down and not to be kind of pushing your butt up in the air. Okay?

And then the great thing with plank is you just get to hold it. You can hold it for ten seconds if you can make that, or you can up it to fifteen or even twenty. It's okay to feel your body tremble. If you feel like this is too much strain on low back, you put your knees down, and you can do plank on your knees and still get a core workout.

Again, I wanna make sure I feel my abdominal muscles squeezing.

So for plank, I recommend doing maybe two to three sets of that, holding for about, like I said, ten to twenty seconds each time.

Second exercise to strengthen core, which works again the muscles of the back and the buttock is something that we affectionately call bird dogs.

We start With all four on the floor, you may have seen this exercise in another video.

And then what we do is we extend one leg back and the other out.

We're going for length here. We wanna keep the palm facing inward. We wanna keep the toes pointing downward, and we hold this, and then we come back, and then we do the other side.

We hold this.

We come down and then we alternate back and forth. I like to hold for three seconds each time. One, two, three, one, two, three, and I tell people don't banana your spine. Just be reaching as far forward and as far back as you can and you'll get length without bowing your body.

So it's a good idea for these to maybe do sets of five on each side, so a total of ten, and then you can rest and go back to it. The third exercise I'm going to show you is basically a pellet thick tilt. This is to work the back abdominal muscles, if you will, the deeper ones. So you can get onto the ground, and you can do this with either your legs, your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor or you can do it stretched out like this.

I'm gonna demonstrate with my feet flat on the floor. It's a little easier. And the idea here is that I want to get rid of the space behind sorry, underneath my The space where I'm putting my hand here, I wanna imagine kind of getting rid of that space, getting that small arched part of my back down onto the ground. So what I'm gonna do is basically on the count of three, I'm gonna squeeze that area down and then hold it for ten seconds and then release.

You may or may not be able to see this, but all you're doing is imagining that space underneath your back where you could put a hand to be to be basically diminished.

So I'm gonna go one, two, three, push down and hold for five seconds, and then I release, and then I can do that again. Hold for five seconds.

And then release. I will feel all those abdominal muscles and the lower back muscles basically tightening to allow me to find that position.

For that kind of thing, it's good. You can do maybe a series of five to ten of those where you're holding for five seconds each time, and you'll get a nice engagement of those muscles. Down in your core. Another one in that similar position is called a bridge pose. I've done this before, but we can add a little variation to it by using this exercise ball. Like I said, if you don't have an exercise ball, you can use like a soccer ball or a volleyball.

And if you don't have a ball, you don't really to use one. But in this, basically, you're lying here. Again, feet flat on the floor. Almost that same position we just tickling your heels. And in this case, I'm gonna put a ball between my knees and what I'm gonna do on the count of three, one, two, three, I'm gonna raise my pelvis up, and I'm gonna squeeze that ball between my knees at the same time. I can hold this for five seconds.

Even up to ten, if you've got the strength, and then lower back down.

I'm gonna raise up again.

Five seconds and hold it while I'm holding it, I want my toes pointed forward in parallel. I want my shoulders firmly on the ground, my palms, down and my head on the ground, and I don't wanna feel like I'm really pushing my chest to shorten that. I wanna kinda keep my neck nice and long. And then come back down. Okay. Like I said, if you don't have an exercise ball, this exercise can be done simply.

Just by raising the hips up, holding them for five seconds, and then coming back down.

That exercise is great for engaging not only the buttocks, but also the hamstrings and the quads as well.

And then the last exercise I'll demonstrate is something called a side plank. We've worked a lot with kind of the the central muscles, but it's good to work the obliques as well. So a side plank can be done in various ways, but easy list is just to be on one arm on the elbow, and you can do this with your legs straight like this, or you can do it with one foot on the floor this to give you a little more support. I'm gonna demonstrate it that way for now.

And basically, I wanna have my body kind of in a line. Okay. I can keep my arm here to help and my mission is basically to get those hips up and hold them. I'm trying to make a straight line, basically, with my body at this angle.

Hold it. Like I said, five seconds, up to ten if you feel you can do it, and then you come back down and rest.

If you don't need this foot or you wanna make it harder, you can keep both your feet there. And again, you go up and you hold it and come back down. This is great because it also works the stability of the shoulder So it's, you know, you're multitasking here. If you feel that your shoulder is unstable, then I would definitely do the version where you've got your leg here for additional support and your hand here. Just in case. Okay?

So there you go. And you obviously would do each side. And again, with core strengthening exercise, it's more about the hold than doing a bunch of repetitions. So, you know, you can hold that position for five to ten seconds and maybe do, you know, five repetitions of that.

Okay. So moving on, we've now done five core strengthening exercises. Next, I'm gonna demonstrate five core stretching exercises. It's very important to stretch those muscles.

Like I say, a lot of low back pain is just from people having tight hamstrings or tight hip flexors and not being able to get their pelvis in the right alignment. So it takes the strain off of the low back.

First thing I'm going to show you is my favorite in yoga, they call it child's pose. So in child's pose, We basically kinda sit back on our heels.

We have our knees a little bit separated out in the v, and then we're just gonna crawl our hands out as far as we can.

If you can't go out that far, don't worry.

Palms on the floor.

If you can get your head down to the floor, Then do that. You want your butt down on your heels.

And then the first position is just straight ahead.

And I call this child's pose three ways because we do straight ahead to really, really out the back. I feel my back kind of sink down here. And it also, like I said, multitasking helps stretch out the shoulder girdle.

And then we can go off to the right.

For each of these positions, I would hold at least twenty seconds.

I can feel that stretch all along my oblique abs and around my shoulder.

And then twenty seconds off to the other side.

Again, keeping my head down. If you wanna rest your head on the floor, you can.

And then I can come back to straight ahead.

I know that looks very easy, but I can't tell you how important child's postage for just stretching the low back and stretching all the side muscles that we often forget about. Okay. So the second exercise I'm gonna show you is a stretch for the ham tight hamstrings is for sure one of the main causes of low back pain from basically a muscle skeletal standpoint So you really want to focus on this exercise.

To stretch your hamstrings, you just need a yoga strap or if you don't have a strap I said, you can use a belt or a towel and very easy.

You're gonna lie down and put the strap around the ball of the foot that you're working on, you can do this bare foot, and you're gonna lie comfortable on the ground, and you're mission is to basically bring your leg up towards the ceiling. At some point, you will have to bend your knee. Because it'll be tight.

You let your knee bend, and then once you've got a little bend in your knee and you're at a comfortable you're gonna push to open those muscles.

It is so important not to lock out your knee and just ratchet this back until you heard something.

Pull back slowly. Allow a bend in the knee to happen. And once you've got a little bit of a bend, then you use the muscle self to stretch itself by straightening the leg in that position. Then you relax, you can pull it back a little further.

And then you extend again.


I like holding this for at least ten seconds and then relaxing. And if you can pull back a little further and then do that again. You can do another ten seconds here and then relax. And then you let it go slowly down, and of course you do the other side.

So the most important point that I made there is when you're a muscle. When you can contract the muscle to stretch itself instead of using a different force to kind of rip on it, protecting the muscle in a much better way, and you're actually using the strength of the muscle to stretch itself. It's a much safer way to stretch.

The next stretching exercise I'm going to show you focuses on the glutes. In yoga, they refer to this as a reclining pigeon. Some people refer to this as a figure four stretch.

Basically, you're gonna lie down.

You're gonna put one heel on the other thigh.

I'm kind of making a figure four here and I'm gonna reach through the hole with both my hands and grab the other knee. I'm gonna stay lying down and I'm just gonna slow pull that knee and therefore the foot here towards my chest. You will feel a major stretch all along the glutes, all along your butt, the outside of your hip, and you're just gonna hold that. This is a very easy stretch to just hold.

It's good to keep the feet kind of flexed like that. It helps protect the knee and you're just gonna hold that. You can hold that for a good thirty seconds and then relax and go down. It's good to let the muscles relax.

It helps kind of blood rush back into the muscle and then you repeat that move You see if you can go a little further.

Hold it again for twenty seconds and then relax and then of course do it on the other side.

Those figure four stretchers are very important because the glutes are one of the largest in our body and they tend to get very tense especially if you're walking a lot or if you're sitting a lot and tense gluteal muscles really put a strain on the pelvis that then causes the lumbar spine to kinda be in a position that isn't the best alignment for it.

The next stretch I'm gonna show you is what I call a rotational stretch. So basically, in this, you're gonna be sitting down. You can start kinda hugging your knees here. What you're gonna do is extend one of your legs straight, keep the other one here, and then you're gonna reach behind you and use this arm as leverage so you can just stretch out here.

When I'm doing this stretch, I wanna keep my back kind of nice and long. I don't wanna be doing it way. Keep it nice and long. I want to use the leverage here of my arm or if you need to, you can just use of your hand.

And you're just kind of pulling your body across. Again, I'm feeling the stretch all on those external oblique that I mentioned side muscles that we need to use and I'm kind of strengthening with the other side too if I'm pulling here. Okay. And you just hold that for these holding stretches. Like I said, about thirty seconds is a good length, and then I can relax to let blood flow back into the muscles, and then I can repeat.

And of course then to do the other side.

Okay. One more exercise.

Like I said, the, muscles, tight muscles in the legs are often a culprit for low back pain. We focus this on some of the post posterior muscles in our, basically, our hamstrings and our glutes. Now we have to focus on the front muscles or the quadriceps.

So for this one, it's a very simple kind of kneeling lunch. So I can start like this.

I put one leg out in front of me. Use my hands support myself. And really all you have to do is just start leaning forward until you feel a stretch in that quadricep and hip flexor muscle.

Muscle, I should say. So, again, it's a holding stretch being here for about thirty seconds, keeping my torso up. I don't wanna be like this that kind of limits the stretch. I wanna kind of holding here using my hands to support me. And just as long as you lean forward and feel a stretch here in your hip flexors and your quads, you are doing it right.

Those tight hip flexors, like I said, really tough on the low back. Hold for thirty seconds.

Go back to a resting and then repeat.

And of course, do the other side.

Again, holding it for maybe seconds, focusing on keeping my torso up, my head towards the ceiling, my arms supporting there, my legs straight behind me, not turned out to the side. Or the other side, and then my toes of this leg pointing forward, that's your good position.

And there you go.

So those are five good stretching routines that help protect and support your low back.

So just put it all together here. Low back pain is such a common complaint. But you have so much control over it. So take that to heart, do the core strengthening exercises, do the stretching that help with the hip flexors and the buttock and the hamstrings, and you will spare yourself a lot of trouble down the line. Alright? I'm doctor Killerworth Thanks for tuning in, and we will come back with more exercises next time.