9 Back-Strengthening Exercises to Ease Pain

So your son finally decided to move out of the house and in your zeal to hasten his departure you lifted one too many of his amplifiers. Now it's Sunday morning and although it's wonderfully quiet, you're one twisted sister.

Back pain strikes just about everyone at some point in their lives, but it doesn't have to debilitate you. In fact, the right kind of movement can be therapeutic, bringing fresh oxygenated blood to sore areas that promotes healing. You don't even have to forego working out.

"Essentially, it's safe to exercise with low-back or mid-back pain," says David Hanscom, MD, an orthopedic spine surgeon at Swedish Neuroscience Specialists in Seattle. "Back pain is only a symptom; 99 percent of the time the pain results from ligaments and muscles around the spine."

More: Neck Stretches to Alleviate Pain

That being said, there are some instances when it's smarter to head for the doctor's office rather than the gym. These include: If the pain worsens at night and while lying flat, if it persists for six weeks or more, if it's associated with weight loss and fever, or if you've recently fallen or have osteoporosis. Other signs you should get checked out: shooting pain down one or both legs, suddenly crooked posture, an inability to stand up straight, or holding your breath when changing position, says Scott Weiss, a New York physical therapist and athletic trainer.

In the absence of any of these symptoms, it's okay to be active. Just be mindful, and swap your regular exercises and stretches for these more spine-friendly versions.

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Do this...Supported hamstring stretch

Instead of that...Touch-your-toes hamstring stretch

Weiss recommends stretching the hamstrings by putting the heel of one leg up on a chair and tilting your pelvis forward. Keep your back straight as you lean forward (think of pushing your hips back), reaching with both hands approximately six inches above the foot until you feel a gentle pull up the back of the elevated leg. Do not bounce. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.

More: How to Recover From a Hamstring Strain

Do this...Side-lying quadriceps stretch

Instead of that...Hurdler's stretch

The classic hurdler's stretch—which involves sitting upright on the floor while extending one leg in front and bending the other behind—is just as effective and safer for your back if it's done lying down, says Weiss. To start, lie on your right side with your head on your right arm, legs stacked, and spine aligned. Bend your left (top) knee, bringing your foot towards your left hip. Gently use your left hand to pull that foot towards your tailbone and hold for 30 seconds. Change sides and repeat.

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Do this...Reverse curl-ups

Instead of that...Leg raises

Targeting the abdominals by lying on your back and slowly raising and lowering straightened legs is one of the worst spine-stressing exercises, says Weiss. Reverse curl-ups put far less torque on the back without sacrificing any of the belly-tightening benefits.

To do them: Lie on your back with arms extended, palms down. Bend and raise both knees until they're at 90-degree angles to your torso, feet off the floor. This is the start position. Bring both knees to the chest while lifting your hips off the floor, then release back to the start position. Repeat.

More: 15-Minute Circuit for Hips, Glutes and Abs

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Prevention

For 60 years, Prevention has delivered the kind of authoritative information, breaking news and energizing lifestyle advice that women can use today for a happier, healthier, stronger life tomorrow and beyond. With Prevention, she continuously discovers health, beauty, fitness and nutrition advice that makes her more inspired, more confident than ever before.

For 60 years, Prevention has delivered the kind of authoritative information, breaking news and energizing lifestyle advice that women can use today for a happier, healthier, stronger life tomorrow and beyond. With Prevention, she continuously discovers health, beauty, fitness and nutrition advice that makes her more inspired, more confident than ever before.

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