Spinal Health Tips
Just like reinforced steel can bear more weight than sheet aluminum, a strong, well-conditioned back can withstand more stress, and protect the spine better, than a back that has not been conditioned through exercise.
Conditioning through flexibility and strengthening back exercises not only helps the back avoid injury, or minimize the severity of injury if the spine is traumatized, it also can help relieve the pain of many back conditions.
Many back exercises can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Most of these back exercises focus not only on the back, but also the abdominal (stomach) muscles and gluteus (buttocks) and hip muscles. Taken together, these strong 'core' muscles can provide back pain relief because they provide strong support for the spine, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine.
The ISCA recommends the following tips to help prevent back injuries
- Don't lift by bending over from the waist with locked knees. Instead, bend your hips and knees and then squat to pick up an object holding it as close to you as possible.
- Don't twist your body while lifting.
- Push, rather than pull, when you must move heavy objects.
- If you must sit for long periods, take frequent breaks and stretch and walk around.
- Wear flat shoes or shoes with low heels.
- Exercise regularly. An inactive lifestyle contributes to lower-back pain.
- The marvelous strength and flexibility that's engineered into your lower back also make it susceptible to developing lots of problems. And because of the many nerves that run throughout the spine and into the rest of your body, a problem in the lower back can lead to not only leg pain and hip problems but more.
Spinal anatomy is a remarkable combination of strong bones, flexible ligaments and tendons, large muscles (and small muscles) and highly sensitive nerves. It is designed to be incredibly strong, protecting the highly sensitive nerve roots, yet highly flexible, providing for mobility on many different planes. Most of us take this juxtaposition of strength, structure and flexibility for granted in our everyday lives - until something goes wrong.
Once we have back pain, we're driven to know what's wrong and what it will take to relieve the pain and prevent a recurrence.
Almost everyone can benefit from stretching the soft tissues - the muscles, ligaments and tendons - in the back, legs, buttock, and around the spine.
The spinal column and its contiguous muscles, ligaments, and tendons are all designed to move, and limitations in this motion can make back pain worse.
Patients with ongoing back pain may find it takes weeks or months of stretching and other back exercises to mobilize the spine and soft tissues, but will find that meaningful and sustained relief of back pain will usually follow the increase in motion.
General Tips for Stretching to Relieve Back Pain
Keep the following in mind when starting a stretching routine as part of a program of back exercises:
- Wear comfortable clothes that won't bind
- Stretching should be pain free; do not force the body into difficult positions
- Move into the stretch slowly and avoid bouncing, which may actually tear muscles
- Stretch on a clean, flat surface that is large enough to move freely
- Hold stretches long enough (20-30 seconds) to allow muscles or joints to become loose
- Repeat the stretch, generally 5-10 times
If one already has low back pain or neck pain, it is best to check with a Doctor of Chiropractic to discuss a safe and effective exercise program, or treatment program, if required.