How to make your back strong

Back pain may be short term (acute) in which case it may resolve in a few days or weeks. If it persists for more than three months, it is chronic. Chronic back pain particularly can be disabling if ignored. Treatment for back pain depends on its nature (acute or chronic) and the cause of the condition. Supervised exercise therapy, says experts, can not only reduce but also prevent back pain. Exercise can strengthen your back muscles, increase spinal flexibility, reduce its stress and improve posture and balance. Here are some exercises…

Stretching exercises
The pelvic tilt, the hamstring stretch, the single or double knee to chest stretch, and the back arch are some exercises that strengthen the back by stretching specific muscles and increasing their range of motion. For example, the hamstring stretch stretches the back of the thighs, the back arch stretches the shoulder, back and hip muscles, and the pelvic tilt stretches the back and stomach muscles, increasing flexibility of the hip muscles. These exercises also help to reduce pain.

Strengthening exercises
These exercises increase muscle strength so that the spine is supported better and its bearing capacity is optimized. Exercises such as the pelvic lift, abdominal crunches and wall slide strengthen the back by building up muscles in the buttocks, the abdomen and the legs.

Flexion and extension
This type involves exercises that require bending forwards and backwards, respectively. Flexion – deep squats are an example – helps by opening up the space between the disks, thus easing pain resulting from compression of nerves. It also stretches the back muscles. Extension exercises performed while lying down – leg lifts are an example – help by opening up the spinal canal; narrowing of the canal through which the spinal cord runs causes back pain, due to pressure on the nerves that make up the spinal cord, and strengthening the muscles that support the spine.

Aquatic exercises
Aquatic exercises are known to be the one of the best form of pain-management therapies. Supervised water-based exercises in pools with regulated temperature provide better pain relief from back pain as compared to land-based exercises. They also cause less impact on the spine and joints.

Last word
Before starting any exercise program, remember to consult your physician, as some exercises may be harmful in certain conditions. For example, flexion should be avoided if you have a slipped disc. Go for graded exercise — start with a few minutes and gradually build up. Avoid vigorous twisting and high impact exercises such as aerobic dancing. Aim to exercise regularly for 15 – 30 minutes, at least thrice a week. Start and end your routine with stretching. Exercise therapy works best if it is tailored to your unique needs and supervised by a qualified professional.

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