Many people in pain are often wary of exercising because they are afraid of injuring themselves even further. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know whether they should push themselves into exercising or resting until the pain settles. The truth is that exercise is an important part of your pain management plan. It can greatly aid in effectively easing your acute pain as well as any long-term pain.

The aim of exercise is not to cause more pain in your back. Rather, exercise aims to help you move easier and with less stiffness, and it increases your general fitness level. It can also help you to feel more confident about your body’s abilities and reduce the harmful effects of inactivity. The key is to exercise slowly and at a pace that feels comfortable to you. Exercise should be a way of increasing your confidence in doing daily activities.

You will notice that many of the exercises below are closely related to yoga poses. This is because yoga is one of the best ways to improve back pain and many other forms of physical discomfort. It is important to note that exercise should not cause pain. Instead, exercise and stretches should feel good and help relieve your pain. With that being said, here are the top 5 best exercises to relieve back pain:

1. Child’s pose- A stretch for the back and thigh muscles, child’s pose is a common yoga pose that also serves as a resting pose. While on your hands and knees, sit back on your heels and bend forward at the waist until your forehead touches the floor in front of you. Stretch your arms above your head or reach your hands to either side. You can leave your thighs together or separate them with your big toes touching. You should feel a stretch in your middle back. Hold for as long as desired, breathing deeply.

2. Cat/camel- Another great stretching exercise that stretches the back muscles, cat/camel is also known as cat/cow. Get into a hands-and-knees position, keeping your knees slightly apart and your neck straight. Arch your back upward, contracting your abdominal muscles. Roll your shoulders forward and pull your chin down until it touches your chest. Hold for five seconds, and then go back to a neutral position. Then, sway your back, and pull your head back, looking up. Open up your shoulders and collarbone. Hold for five, and then repeat from start.

3. Shoulder shrugs- This exercise is great for those who work on the computer all day long. Focus on your breathing in this exercise for maximum relaxation. Sit in a comfortable position and breathe in through your nose. Exhale all of your air slowly, and repeat the process a few times. Then, breathe in though your nose and shrug your shoulders all the way up to your ears as high as you can go without pain. Hold for a few seconds, and then exhale. Release your shoulders and let them return to a relaxed position. Do this exercise at least three or four times.

4. Bird Dog- This is a back-strengthening exercise that involves lifting of the leg and opposite arm while maintaining a neutral spine. It tones your back muscles as well your hamstrings and glutes. Bird-dog improves your coordination as well as the balance of your muscles. To begin, start on all fours with your knees hip-width apart underneath your hips. Keep your hands flat and shoulder-width apart. Squeezingyour core and pulling your stomach towards your spine, extend our right leg back straight and your left arm straight ahead. Remember to keep your spine neutral. Hold for a few seconds and repeat on the other side. If you want to challenge yourself, increase the holding time to ten seconds or as long as you
can hold it.

5. Sciatic stretch- If you have pain along your sciatic nerve, stretching can greatly help to reduce the discomfort and radiating pain in the back of your legs and buttocks. Lie down on your back and place your hand behind your knee. Straighten out your leg carefully and then flex your ankle slowly. Do this for a few seconds on each leg.

Take a few minutes each day to work on these exercises and you will see benefits in a very short time. Relieving back pain is about improving muscle strength and range of motion as well as reducing stress and  inflammation. Start today for a pain free tomorrow.