Back Exercises

Back exercises can decrease back pain and sciatic pain. And back exercises can prevent pain from occurring. Deconditioning of back muscles and spinal structures occur without movement and proper exercises. Spinal structures include bones, muscles, ligaments, joints, and discs. There is less support for the back if the spinal structures and back muscles become deconditioned.

Abdominal strengthening is also required to support one´s back. The abdominal muscles support the spine, and they counterbalance the back muscles. Weaker abdominal muscles shift the load to the back muscles with the result being sprains, strains and more serious injuries.

Unfortunately, spinal discs have a very poor blood supply; one major reason disc injuries may not heal for long periods. Because of the poor blood supply, discs may heal incompletely. Movement, which occurs with exercise, increases the exchange of nutrients and fluids within the spinal discs. This allows the discs to stay healthy and to heal from an injury.

Strengthening the back muscles and stomach muscles can reduce back pain and sciatic pain. It also reduces the probability of developing back pain and sciatic pain. Finally, strengthening these areas improves posture. Before beginning an exercise program for the low back and stomach muscles, consult with your physician. It is imperative that the exercises be performed correctly and consistently.

It is important to avoid bending forward at the waist with your knees straight. Bending forward at the waist with your knees straight, to lift an object, is even worse. An important rule to remember is that the more you bend at your knees, the less you bend at the waist. Bending at the waist can cause injuries to the muscles, ligaments, joints, and discs of the spine. Bending forward at the waist increases pressure within the spinal disc which increases the risk of injury – including herniation.

One is more likely to bend at the knees, rather than at the waist, if one’s knees and thighs are strong and conditioned. With stronger knees and thighs, bending at the knees requires less effort and is more likely to occur subconsciously.

It is preferable to include strengthening the abdomen and knees with back muscles when designing a back-exercise program.

BACK EXERCISES

Pelvic Lift

  • Lie down on a firm surface and bend your legs until your feet are flat on the floor. Your feet should be slightly less than shoulder width.
  • Slowly push down to your feet and slowly lift your bottom up off the floor. There is no need to lift your bottom as high up as possible. Lifting your bottom up off the floor a few inches is all that is necessary.
  • Hold the position for a count of ten (10).
  • Return to the starting position and repeat five (5) more times. You can gradually increase the repetitions as each week goes by and as you gain strength performing the exercise.

Pelvic Tilt

  • Lie on a firm surface, on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Tighten your lower abdominal muscles and slowly push the small of your back down and into the floor.
  • Hold for a count of ten (10).
  • Return to the starting position and repeat five (5) times. Gradually increase the number of repetitions as each week passes and as you gain strength performing the exercise.

Hip Extension

  • Kneel down on a firm surface on your hands and knees.
  • Slowly extend your right leg out behind your body until the leg is straight behind you off the floor.
  • Hold for a count of ten (10).
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat step 2 with the left leg.
  • Repeat five (5) more times with each leg. Gradually increase the number of repetitions as each week passes and as you gain strength performing the exercise.

If at any time, while performing these exercises, you develop severe low back pain or leg pain, immediately stop and discuss with your doctor.

ABDOMINAL (STOMACH) EXERCISES

Partial Sit Ups

  • Lay your back on a firm surface.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees to a comfortable position.
  • Place your hands behind your head.
  • Slowly lift your head and shoulders off the floor using your abdominal muscles.
  • Hold this position for five (5) seconds.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat five (5) more times. Gradually increase the number of repetitions as each week passes, and you gain strength performing the exercise.

Leg Raises

  • Lay your back on a firm surface.
  • Slightly bend your knees to a comfortable position.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles and slowly lift your feet off the floor to the level of your head (a few inches).
  • Slowly return your feet to the floor.
  • Repeat five (5) more times. Gradually increase the number of repetitions as each week passes and as you gain strength performing the exercise.

Twisting Partial Sit Ups

  • Lay your back on a firm surface.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor and bend your knees to a comfortable position.
  • Place your hands behind your head.
  • Slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor and angle your left elbow toward your right knee.
  • Hold this position for five (5) seconds.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Again, slowly raise your head and shoulders off of the floor. This time, angle your right elbow toward your left knee.
  • Hold this position for five (5) seconds.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat five (5) more times in each direction. Gradually increase the number of repetitions as each week passes and as you gain strength performing the exercise.

If at any time, while performing these exercises, you develop severe low back pain or leg pain, immediately stop and consult with your doctor.

KNEE AND THIGH EXERCISES

Wall Slide

  • With your feet at shoulder width apart, stand with your back against the wall.
  • Slowly slide your back down the wall until your knees are bent at a 45-degree angle.
  • Hold this position for five (5) seconds.
  • Slowly straighten your knees, sliding up the wall until your back is against the wall with your knees straight.
  • Repeat five (5) more times. Gradually increase the number of repetitions as each week passes and as you gain strength performing the exercise.

If at any time, while performing these exercises, you develop severe low back pain or leg pain, immediately stop and consult with your doctor and physical therapist.

Jose Veliz MD is the medical director of Palomar Spine & Pain, in Escondido, CA (North San Diego County).

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