The lower back is prone to developing a pinched nerve because this region of the spine must support the upper body while remaining flexible enough to bend and twist. The pressure from everyday movement causes the parts of the spine, especially the discs and joints, to wear down with age, leading to conditions like herniated discs and arthritis. While not always painful by themselves, if any displaced anatomy from these conditions puts pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root, symptoms can result.
If you have been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in the lower back, a great way to find relief is through exercise. There are many benefits to exercise, including improved cardiovascular health, weight loss and stronger supporting muscles. While any exercise plan should be done in close partnership with your primary care physician to avoid overexertion, the following are some commonly recommended exercises for patients dealing with lower back pain.
Pinched nerve exercises for the lower back
There are many different methods and exercise routines that can help relieve pain and other symptoms from a pinched nerve in the lower back. Since every situation and person is different, it is best to work with your doctor or physical therapist to develop a plan that is best for you. These are just a few of the specific pinched nerve exercises for the lower back that you may see:
- Gentle stretches — These can be performed standing, sitting or standing down. Stretching the hamstring muscles in the back of the legs in particular can take pressure off the lower back. Stretches should be entered into slowly and held for a period of 10 to 30 seconds; it is important to breathe during the stretch as well.
- Light aerobics — Low-impact exercises like water aerobics and walking can increase blood flow to damaged discs and inflamed joints, helping to deliver nutrients.
- Pilates exercises — Pilates is a form of exercise that aims to improve the body’s alignment and strengthen core muscles. Basic moves, such as the kneeling arm and leg reach, can help to relieve pain related to a pinched nerve in the lower back.
Exercise is usually combined with other conservative treatment methods, like medication and periods of rest, to form a care plan with the goal of bringing relief that returns patients to everyday activity.
When to consider more advanced treatment
Surgery to decompress a pinched nerve in the lower spine is usually seen as a last-resort treatment method by many physicians because of the highly invasive nature of most procedures. If you have exhausted conservative options and are considering traditional open back surgery, make sure your doctor or specialist is aware of the full range of surgical options. This includes minimally invasive spine surgery — performed with a small incision — that can lead to a shorter recovery period compared to traditional open spine procedures.