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Strengthen your spine

24 Feb 2021

Are you suffering from lower back pain and doing nothing about it? Visit your doctor to find out the cause of your discomfort. But, in the meantime, doing a few exercises to strengthen the lower back can help reduce the discomfort caused by lower back pain.

According to research, exercise increases blood flow to the lower back area and this helps in reducing stiffness as well as aid healing. Performing exercises to work the core muscles can prevent injury, increase stability, and improve flexibility. However, people with lower back pain should also pay attention to their general posture and how they carry heavy objects to identify movements that may be responsible.

Here area few exercises that strengthen the spine and help you manage lower back pain:

Bridges

Bridges work a person’s gluteus maximus – the large muscle of the buttocks. People engage this muscle when they move their hips, particularly when they bend into a squat. The gluteus maximus is one of the most important muscles in the body, and keeping it strong can help support the lower back. 

To do a brige:

  • Lie on the ground with your knees bent and placing the feet flat on the floor
  • Press the feet down, keeping the arms by the sides.
  • Raise the buttocks off the ground until the body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the knees.
  • Squeeze the buttocks with the shoulders remaining on the floor, then lower and rest for a few seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times. Rest for a few minutes, then repeat.

 

Knee to chest stretches

This exercise is good to help elongate the lower back, relieving tension and pain.

To do a knee-to-chest stretch:

  • Lie on your back, knees bent, keeping both feet flat.
  • With both hands pull one knee toward the chest and hold for 5 seconds..
  • Keep your abdominals tight and press the spine into the floor.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
  • Do 2–3 times with each leg.
  1. Lower back rotational stretches

The lower back rotational stretch relieves tension in the lower back, besides working the core muscles to improve stability.

To perform this:

  • Lie back on the floor with bent knees and feet flat on the ground.
  • Keeping the shoulders firmly on the floor, gently roll both bent knees over to one side.
  • Hold the position for 5–10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the same on the other side and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat 2–3 times on each side.
  1. Draw-in manoeuvre

The draw-in manoeuvre works the transversus abdominis – the muscle on the front and side of the abdomen, stabilising the spine and lower back.

To perform this:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat, arms by the sides.
  • Breathe in deeply.
  • While breathing out, pull the bellybutton toward the spine, tightening the abdominal muscles
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times.

Pelvic tilts

The pelvic tilt exercise releases tight back muscles and keeps them flexible.

To perform this:

  • Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat, arms by the sides.
  • Gently arch the lower back and push the stomach out.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Flatten the back and pull the bellybutton in toward the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  • Do 5-6 repetitions. Increase the number of repetitions daily.
  1. Lying lateral leg lifts

Lying lateral leg lifts work the hip abductor muscles. These muscles support the pelvis and can help reduce strain on the back. Keeping these muscles strong is essential, as they help a person maintain their balance.

To perform this:

  • Lie on one side with the legs together.
  • Keep the lower leg slightly bent.
  • Draw the bellybutton into the spine to engage the core muscles.
  • Raise the top leg about 50cm, keeping it straight and extended.
  • Hold the position for 2-3 seconds. Repeat 10 times.
  • Turn onto the other side of the body and repeat, lifting the other leg.
  • Perform 3 sets on each side.

Cat stretches

The cat stretch can help lengthen the back, make it stronger, and ease tension in the muscles.

To perform this:

  • Get onto the hands and knees with the knees hip-width apart.
  • Arch the back, pulling the bellybutton up toward the spine.
  • Slowly relax the muscles and allow the abdomen to sag toward the floor.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat 3–5 times twice a day.

Supermans

A person needs strong back extensors to maintain good posture. These muscles run along either side of the spine. To enhance pelvic support, doing a  Superman can help.

To perform this:

  • Lie face down on the ground with arms stretched out in front
  • Raise both the hands and feet, aiming to create a gap of about 15cm from the floor.
  • Pull in the bellybutton, lifting it off the floor to engage the core muscles.
  • Keep the head straight and look at the floor.
  • Hold the position for 2-3 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.

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SLEEP RIGHT

Certain positions during sleep can place unnecessary strain on the neck, hips, and back, worsening, or even causing, back pain. It is important to maintain the natural curve of the spine when lying in bed. To do this, make sure that the head, shoulders, and hips are aligned and that the back is properly supported. Sleeping on the back may help achieve this.

  1. On the back with knee support

Lying on the back evenly distributes the body’s weight, helping to minimise pressure and ensure a good alignment of the head, neck, and spine.

To get comfortable in this position:

  1. Lie flat on the back facing the ceiling. Avoid tilting the head sideways.
  2. Position a pillow to support the head and neck.
  3. Place a small pillow under the knees.
  4. For extra support, fill any other gaps between the body and mattress with additional pillows. Try placing one beneath the lower back.
  5. On the front with the face down

Sleeping on the front is generally unhealthy when a person turns their head to the side, twisting the spine and placing additional stress on the neck, shoulders, and back.

To do so comfortably:

  1. Get into bed and carefully roll onto the stomach.
  2. Place a slim pillow beneath the abdomen and hips.
  3. Position a pillow or a rolled-up towel under the forehead to create enough breathing space between the mouth and mattress.

 

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