Your spine has many jobs that require healthy function, mobility being one of them. I’ve compiled some exercises that will help you maintain healthy function that can help to reduce pain and strengthen your overall spine health. These exercises will help to create stability around your spine and reduce any back pain that may exist.
Simple exercises for core muscles and back support
The first thing to focus on are your core muscles. Your lower back and abdominal muscles are what create support for your spine and take pressure off of your lower back. Having a routine of core and ab exercises will help to promote the extra support for your lower back. Veritas Health, LLC recommends using an exercise ball for 20-30 minutes a day. They share a series of crunch and extension movements using the exercise ball to strengthen your core muscles on their website.
For the next series of exercises, you will start by lying on your back on the floor (no equipment necessary). You can find photos and video demonstrations here, provided by the Spine Health Institute. The first movement is a stretch for your hip and buttocks area which can often contribute to lower back pain. When on your back, bend your knees and bring your right ankle to your left knee. Placing both hands behind the left knee, pull forward and hold for at least 30 seconds. Switch sides by placing the left ankle to the right knee and repeat.
The next movement is referred to as abdominal bracing. Continue on the floor with your knees bent shoulder-width apart. Bring your right knee to meet your right hand and push while creating resistance with your hand. Hold this position and resistance for 5 seconds and rest. Repeat this on the left side and continue alternating for 20 reps.
Now you’ll move onto a bridge pose to strengthen the hips, buttocks and hamstrings. Remain on the floor with your knees bent and shoulder-width apart. Start by lifting your hips toward the ceiling with your shoulders still touching the floor and hold this for 5 seconds before slowly coming back down to a resting position. Repeat this movement in reps of 10.
Another recommended exercise is called the alternative squat. This version is considered much safer for your back and will prevent any potential injuries caused by traditional, weighted squats. Starting seated on a proper-height chair, use only your buttocks and leg muscles to bring yourself to a standing position keeping your back and neck aligned. Bring yourself back to a seated position and repeat in reps of 10. This exercise will help to safely build core and leg strength and support your spine health.
Other practices to support a healthy spine
Ergonomics while sitting are extremely important for spinal health. While sitting, your lower back experiences 3 times more pressure than standing so it’s important to remember your posture. Avoid slouching or leaning forward while sitting at your desk and consider finding a chair that can support the natural curves in your spine. Another way to avoid the added pressure is to avoid sitting for long periods of time. Try to get up and move around every 30 minutes to stretch out your spine and release that built up pressure. These little shifts in attention will help reduce the stress on your spine and keep the pain to a minimum.
Your spine connects your body to the brain and helps to control all other body movements. Maintaining the strength in your spine and core muscles will reduce the chances for back pain and keep it healthy over time. Practice these exercises daily and remember to adjust your posture to ensure proper spine health. These small shifts in routines will keep your back pain free and ensure healthy function for the future.
An entire set of exercises are available in my book Back Pain Remedies for Dummies with emphasis on lumbar stabilization
Michael Sinel, M.D.
Board Certified Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Physician
Assistant Clinical Professor, UCLA Department of Medicine
Dr. Sinel is an expert in spinal disorders, stress-related back pain, and mind/body medicine. He also has obtained certifications as a yoga therapist and mindfulness-based stress reduction instructor. Dr. Sinel is a proponent of using alternative methods to help patients overcome the pain and loss of mobility from spinal disorders and chronic pain syndromes.
Dr. Sinel has authored two widely read books: “Back Pain Remedies for Dummies” and “Win the Battle Against Back Pain.”
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