Easing lower back pain

Strong belly muscles help support your lower back and reduce your risk of stiffness and injury. The following stretching exercise is designed to open up your lower back to relive tension and strengthen your belly muscles and the muscles of your inner thighs and back — muscles that support your back, especially the lower part.

You need both ankle weights for this stretching exercise. When you're ready, follow these steps:

1. Lie on your back with your right knee bent and tucked toward your chest, your fingers interlaced slightly below your knee, and your left leg extended straight out.

This is the starting position. Make sure your belly muscles are engaged right away.

2. As you exhale to a count of four, press your knee into your hands as you raise your head and shoulders off the ground (see Figure 14-4).

Keep your left leg flat on the floor. Feel your belly, back, and inner-thigh muscles working.

If you feel up to it, hold this position for three full breaths (inhale and exhale to counts of four) to really work your belly muscles and stretch your back. If you have knee problems, try holding your leg with your hands behind your knee.

3. As you inhale to a count of four, lower your head and shoulders to the floor to return to the starting position (see Step 1).

Do this exercise six to eight times with your right leg, pause to rest, and then do six to eight repetitions with your left leg.

Figure 14-4:

Wring the pain and tension from your lower back by strengthening your core.

Figure 14-4:

Wring the pain and tension from your lower back by strengthening your core.

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