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Lower Back Pain? This Exercise Pulls Double Duty as a Workout and Physical Therapy

Lower back pain can be debilitating and agonizing! Even a small amount of movement can send a twinge of pain running up and down your spine, forcing you to spend days on your back or sitting in a comfortable chair. Even after you can move around, you have to be VERY careful of the types of exercises you do. Thankfully, there's one exercise that can be both workout and physical therapy. That's right, I'm talking about kettlebell swings!

Kettlebell swings are the perfect exercise for lower back pain. They involve no twisting motion but are a straight up and down movement that works the spinal column without increasing your risk of injury. If you want an excellent workout to help you recover from a lower back injury or slipped disc, kettlebell swings are the way to go.

In one study, kettlebell swings were found to be more effective for lower back training than Hyperextensions, or Supermans. Not only did they elicit a better physiological response (muscle recruitment), with better support from the core and gluteal muscles. Another study found that the exercise caused less stress on the L4 and L5 vertebra.

Dr. Ben Fung describes the benefits of kettlebell swings for lower back pain:

  • They're correctional, meaning they help to improve your posture and correct spine mechanics as you move.
  • They're dynamic, meaning they can alleviate pain and tightness through movement.
  • They're functional, as they use a free-swinging object and the force of gravity.

All in all, kettlebell swings can be one of the best options to help you recover from and prevent back pain.

How to Perform a Proper Kettlebell Swing

The movement seems fairly simple, but there is a lot of mechanics that have to be just right in order to do the exercise correctly. Here's how it's done:

  • Stand in a semi-wide stance, with your knees bent slightly, hips back, back muscles engaged, head up, and your shoulders relaxed. Grip the kettlebell with two hands.
  • "Hike" the kettlebell, pushing it between your legs as far as it can go. This backswing requires more effort than the upswing, but it's the most important part of the movement.
  • Keep your body aligned as you swing the weight up to chest level. You should end up standing straight when the kettlebell is at the height of its swing.
  • As the weight comes down, bend your knees and return to your original posture for the backswing.
  • Repeat as desired.

It will take a few tries to get the movement just right, as you'll need to learn how to thrust your hips backward for the backswing. This will take the strain off your lower back muscles, forcing the upper back muscles to do most of the work. Your shoulders and arms will get a great workout, along with your legs. All the while, the dynamic swinging motion of the exercise will produce tension in your core muscles. It's a gentle workout for your back, one that's VERY effective at dealing with lower back pain.

[Image via Getty]

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