Exercises To Relieve Back Pain That Are Safe, Simple And Office-Appropriate

back pain man
(Image credit: Unknown)

The human body is really good at moving, but it goes to pot when you ask it to stay still for most of the day. Not great news for those of us with sedentary office-based jobs, and it’s one of the main reasons backaches are as common as colds.

If you’re struggling with back pain, the Kaia app might be able to help. It offers convenient, supplementary treatment for people who have seen a GP about their back problems and been diagnosed with non-specific back pain. The app takes three types of treatment you might receive at a medical centre – physical therapeutic exercises, pain education concentrating on back pain, and coping strategies like mindfulness techniques and progressive muscle relaxation – and puts them on your smartphone.

To give you a taste of what’s on offer, the team at Kaia pulled together these ten exercises, focusing on movements you can do sitting or standing to make them more office appropriate. “There’s more movement in the exercises in the app,” says Kaia training specialist Lukas Offinger. “Seated movements are mostly there for patients with acute pain. You can expect many more movements in the standing, all fours, on your knees, or on your back and prone positions.

“These ten exercises are all pretty easy to do, although you should take care to perform them slowly and under control. Don’t rush through because they are easy, but really pay attention to the video and try to copy them as well as possible.”

Take some time to learn and master the routine, then make it a regular part of your working day. It only takes a little over five minutes and, as Offinger explains, “your whole body gets a brief relief from what you’re doing all the time – sitting.”

1 Raise elbows

Reps 20

Sit in a chair and hug yourself, putting your right hand on your left shoulder and vice versa. Your elbows should be stacked in front of your chest. Raise your elbows as far as is comfortable, then lower them again. “Never go through the pain or force it,” says Offinger. “None of these are performance exercises – they are supposed to make you feel better.”

2 Leg move

Time 20sec each leg

Sit in a chair and bend forwards, placing both hands on one leg just below your knee. Slide your hands down slowly towards your ankle and back up again. Continue until the time is up, then switch legs.

3 Hands up

Time 30sec

Sit in a chair and put your hands on the top of your head with your elbows out to either side. Gently bend your upper body to one side, then the other, continuing until the time is up. Your buttocks should stay on the chair throughout.

4 Leg to body

Time 20sec hold each leg

Sit in a chair, lift one leg and hug it towards your chest. Hold until the time is up, then switch legs. “A lot of people with back pain feel better when they do this lying on their back,” says Offinger. Try that if you work from home or you’re the big kahuna in the office.

5 Raise hips

Time 20sec

Ignore the name: in fact you sit in a chair and move your hips forwards and backwards, which to an observer will look like you’re raising your body. “It’s the Michael Jackson move,” says Offinger. “Move your hips forwards and backwards like a dancer – it’s a really slight movement.”

6 Elbow twist

Time 20sec

Sit in a chair and hug yourself, putting your right hand on your left shoulder and vice versa. Your elbows should be stacked in front of your chest. Twist your body to rotate your elbows to one side and then the other slowly. “It’s not dangerous, but most people with low back pain will feel this quickly,” says Offinger. “Remember to never move through the pain.”

7 Move hips

Time 20sec

Sit in a chair and rock your hips from one side to the other. The opposite buttock to the side you’re leaning towards should leave the seat.

8 Rotate arms

Time 20sec

Stand with your upper arms pinned to your sides, elbows bent at 90°, lower arms in front of you parallel to the floor and hands facing up. Keeping your upper arms tight to your body, rotate your lower arms so they’re out to the sides. Hold that position until the time is up.

“This is a great move if you’ve been sitting for hours with your shoulders forward,” says Offinger. “It activates your scapula and is great for your posture. You feel like you’re getting taller.”

9 Upper rotation

Time 30sec

Stand with your upper arms out to the sides, perpendicular to your torso, elbows bent at 90°, lower arms pointing towards the ceiling and hands facing forwards. Rotate your torso from one side to the other.

“This is similar to the elbow twist, but here you can rotate your hips as well and go a little bit further,” says Offinger.

10 Hip circles

Time 20sec

Stand and move your hips in a circle. This is likely to be a familiar movement, so beware getting carried away. “Make sure to move very slowly,” says Offinger. “Go as far as you can, but only as far as feels good.”

Download Kaia from App Store and Google Play | Three months for £32.99, free trial available

Jonathan Shannon

Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.