Choosing an exercise program for your back

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Choosing an exercise program for your back

It is no surprise that so many people have low back pain ⎯ our lower backs carry more
weight than any other part of our bodies. Most of us don’t realize the importance of keeping
the muscles in this area strong and flexible, until it’s too late. Keeping fit is one of the best
things you can do for your back. By maintaining good muscle tone in your back and
abdomen, you significantly reduce your chances of suffering a new back injury, or
aggravating an old one. A daily routine focused on strengthening and stretching will go far in
helping you stay active and pain-free.

Consistency is perhaps the most important aspect of following an exercise program for your
back. Performing the back-saving exercises described in this segment for about 30 minutes a
day will produce the greatest benefits. Sporadic, intense bouts of exercise may do more harm
than good. Set aside 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night for best results.

Many people make the mistake of overdoing it when they begin their exercise program. This
can result in further damage to a back injury and overall discomfort due to pulled muscles.
Spend two to three minutes warming up your muscles, in order for the muscles to be more
flexible when you begin to exercise. Walk, ride a stationary bike, or simply move your arms
and legs, while alternately tightening and relaxing your muscles. If any activity does cause
pain, particularly if you already have a back injury, STOP. Before continuing, consult your
doctor or physio therapist.

BACK-SAVING EXERCISES
Exercise 1: Knee-to-chest raise, helps loosen up a tense back or hips. To accomplish this
exercise, lie on your back on the floor and bring your right knee to your chest. Clasp your
hands over your shin, hold the position and count to five. Repeat with left leg, then with both
legs.

Exercise 2: Pelvic tilt, helps to reduce a swayed back by strengthening the abdominal and
back muscles. To accomplish this exercise, lie on your back on the floor. Press your lower
back to the floor and tighten your abdominal muscles and buttocks simultaneously. This
movement should be very small. Hold the position and count to five, then release. Repeat five
times.

Exercise 3: Hamstring stretch, helps stretch and loosen the muscles on the back of the thigh.
To accomplish this exercise, lie on your back on the floor. Slowly raise your right leg in a
straight position, supporting it with your hands until you feel a stretch. Stop before you feel
any pain or discomfort. Hold the position and count to five. Slowly lower the leg to the floor
and repeat the exercise five times. Then repeat five times with left leg. Caution: be sure to
use your hands to guide your outstretched leg toward you.




Reviewed on 2006-10-06                   Copyright Reserved                             Page 1 of 3
Exercise 4: Half sit-ups, help strengthen abdominal muscles. To accomplish this exercise, lie
on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Reaching forward, place both hands on your
knees and slowly lift your head and neck until your shoulders barely lift off the floor. Hold
and count to five. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position and repeat five times.
Caution: Keep head in line with shoulders.

Exercise 5: Lower back rotation, helps to limber and strengthen back muscles. To accomplish
this exercise, lie on your back with both feet on the floor. Rotate your head to one side while
dropping your knees to the opposite side. Hold and count to five. Slowly return to starting
position. Then, alternating sides, repeat 10 times.

Exercise 6: Elbow props, help to strengthen low back muscles and help maintain the normal
lumbar curve. To accomplish this exercise, lie on your stomach, turn your head to one side
and relax your arms at your sides. Stay in this relaxed position for three to five minutes. Then,
prop yourself up on your elbows and hold for two to three minutes. Lie back down in starting
position for one minute. Repeat five times. A note of caution: Keep your lower back
completely relaxed.

THE FOLLOWING ARE ADVANCED EXERCISES
If you have a back injury, consult with your doctor or physio therapist before doing these
exercises.

Advanced exercise 1: Hip hyperextension, helps to strengthen and limber hip, buttock and
back muscles. To accomplish this exercise, lie on your stomach, arms folded under your chin
in front of you. Straighten and tighten left leg, then slowly raise it from your hip. Return leg
to the floor and repeat five times with the same leg. Switch legs and repeat exercise five times
with right leg. A note of caution: Don’t lift pelvis to raise leg. Keep each leg straight and
stiff.

Advanced exercise 2: Press-ups, help to strengthen lower back muscles and help maintain
the normal lumbar curve. To accomplish this exercise, lie on your stomach with hands placed
on the floor, as pictured. Do a partial push-up while keeping your pelvis on the floor. Hold
this raised position and count to five. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position. Repeat
five times. Caution: Relax your lower back and legs.

EXERCISES TO AVOID
Some common exercises can actually decrease the curve in your lower back, doing more
harm than good. Years of work dedicated to strengthening and protecting your back can be
offset by movements that place extreme pressure on the discs, causing more pain and damage.
Some common, but potentially harmful exercises to avoid are:
    • Leg lifts (where you extend both legs and simultaneously lift them up while lying on
        your back);
    • Sit-ups done with straight legs;
    • Knee-to-chest exercises and/or bent-knee sit-ups done during severe back pain;




Reviewed on 2006-10-06                   Copyright Reserved                             Page 2 of 3
    •    Any stretching done sitting with legs in a V position (frequently part of aerobic class
         routines); and
    •    Heavy weightlifting with the upper body.

Finally, aerobic exercise that is done properly is also vital to a healthy back. In addition to the
back-saving exercises described above, walking, jogging, swimming and biking all boost your
cardiovascular fitness and help strengthen muscles that support your back. Just be sure to
wear appropriate shoes for each activity and practice good posture to keep your back’s natural
curves. If you find that an exercise causes more back pain or aggravates an injury, stop and
reevaluate your back pain and exercise technique with your doctor.

Some activities can be particularly hard on back injuries because they involve awkward or
difficult motions. Weightlifting, bowling, tennis, golf and aerobics are just a few of the
activities that demand careful attention to technique and form. However, with careful
movements and a stabilized lower back, these activities can be done safely and painlessly
once acute back pain has subsided.

If you have a back injury, be sure to check with your doctor or physiotherapist before starting
any exercise program. If you are recovering from a back problem, some exercises may injure
your back further. Also, most therapeutic exercise programs are graduated, and your doctor
will likely want to alter the exercises as you progress.




Reviewed on 2006-10-06                    Copyright Reserved                              Page 3 of 3

				
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