Do you brush your teeth twice a day? What about visiting your primary care doctor once a year? If your health is important to you, you are probably already taking preventative measures to maintain a healthy body, and the same goes for your spine!
Stretching and strengthening is an excellent practice to be more proactive about maintaining balance in your body. To keep your back limber and strong, we put together some exercise suggestions for your legs, back, and core. If you focus on stretching and strengthening these muscle groups, you will improve the support system of your spine. A strong spine can reduce the complications and risks of back pain.
Stretch and Strengthen:
Bird dog is an great move to strengthen your abdomen and back, and it also helps with spinal stabilization. Bird Dog teaches you how to engage your core and reinforces proper alignment.
- Begin in a tabletop position on your hands and knees, spine neutral. Lift your left leg so it is parallel to the ground. Engage your abs, keep your core stable, and don't let your hips move around. Keep them steady and don't allow your weight to shift.
- To advance the move, lift your right arm in front of you, parallel to the floor. Hold that position for five seconds, then lower your leg and arm back into the tabletop position you started in. Switch sides and repeat this move 3-5 times.
Cat/Cow is a traditional yoga warm-up that gets your spine moving. This move increases flexibility and loosens your muscles, while improving circulation around your spinal discs.
- Start again in tabletop position on your hands and knees. Be sure that you maintain proper alignment and have your shoulders directly over your wrists and your knees stacked below your hips. Your spine should be in a neutral position.
- Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, engage your core muscles and pull your belly button in toward your spine as you round your back into the cat position. Lower your head and tuck your hips, doing your best Halloween cat impression!
- On your breathe as you inhale, reverse the movement, dropping your abdomen toward the floor. Keep your core engaged as you pull your chest through your arms into cow pose, lifting your gaze (and behind) toward the sky.
- Continue this movement back and forth on your breath, exhaling to cat and inhaling to cow. Practice this twice daily, 3-5 times.
Your hamstrings are the muscles that start at the back of your knees and stretch to your tailbone. So, if these large muscles are tight, it can cause you to feel lower back pain. When your hamstrings are tight, the muscles actually shorten, which strains your back. By keeping them stretched and loose, you lengthen the muscle, which reduces stress and tension on your lower back.
- Start by lying on your back and stretch your left leg out while placing a towel, strap, or belt around the arch of your right foot. Straighten your right leg and push your heel toward the sky. Hold on to both sides of the strap and focus on straightening your right leg and making it perpendicular to the ground.
- Hold this stretch for about 15-30 seconds. Then, slowly lower from the position and repeat on your left leg. Do this for 2-4 repetitions.
Traditional sit-ups aren't the only way to strengthen your abdomen and back. Avoid the unnecessary strain they cause and try partial crunches, which can help increase your core strength without causing back pain.
- Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Reach your arms straight up with your fingers reaching for the ceiling. Breathe in, engage your core muscles, and lift your shoulders off the ground.
- Hold this pose for one second, then slowly lower back down to starting position. On your next inhalation, repeat the movement. Do this for 8-12 repetitions. Make sure your tailbone, feet, and lower back are touching the floor throughout the exercise.
Supine twists are great stretches for your back. This move strengthens your core and stretches your back muscles and glutes, all in one go! These twists also realign your spine and hydrate your spinal discs.
- Lie on your back and look up at the ceiling. Stretch your left leg long and bend your right knee. Place your left hand on the outside of your right knee, and drop your right hand out to your side. Take a deep breath. On the exhale, use your hand to draw your right knee across your body toward the left. Let your gaze fall to the right.
- Keep your right shoulder on the ground and hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Return back to center and repeat on the other side. Do 2-3 repetitions in the morning and evening.
These stretches are just the beginning of moves you can do to help prevent lower back pain. We will be happy to share more suggestions during your next appointment!