Using a yoga ball is an excellent, gentle way to exercise and stretch to help eliminate and avoid lower back pain. It is estimated that approximately $50 billion dollars is spent by Americans each year on doctor visits and medications for back pain, and a great deal of this money could be saved by performing a few strengthening and stretching exercises regularly. Here is a description of five gentle exercises for people who suffer from or are looking to avoid lower back pain.
1. Pelvic Isolations
There are a variety of ways to help isolate the muscles of the lower back and pelvis. Strengthening and stretching these muscles helps lead to more core stability, which can reduce or eliminate occurrences of lower back pain. To perform pelvic isolation exercises using a stability ball, sit on the ball with arms to the sides. Gently and slowly tilt the pelvis upward, rolling forward slightly on the ball. This will engage the muscles in the spine to help balance and stabilize the body while giving the pelvic muscles a gentle, strengthening exercise. Gently return to the starting position, and repeat this exercise 10 times. For variations and to engage different areas of the pelvic muscles, this exercise may also be performed by gently rocking from side to side, or in circles for a more advanced gentle exercise.
2. Abdominal Isolation Exercises
Just like the pelvic isolation exercises, there are different variations of abdominal isolation exercises. Strengthening the abdominal muscles is just as important for lower back pain as strengthening the back muscles. The abdominal muscles work to support posture and can help avoid lower back strain and pain. To perform abdominal strengthening exercises, kneel on the floor in front of the exercise ball with hands on the device. Gently roll the ball forward as far as you can comfortably go, engaging the abdominal muscles as you go. Return to neutral position, and repeat this exercise 5 times. Vary the exercise to engage different abdominal muscles by rolling the ball slightly to the right of center and slightly to the left of center.
Different variations of the bridge are available, but the basic bridge exercise will help engage lower back, lower abdominal, and upper thigh muscles. It also helps to gently stretch the lower back to avoid back pain. To perform this exercise, lie flat on the floor with the ball placed underneath the calves. Gently squeeze the buttocks together to lift your pelvis up off the floor, keeping shoulders on the floor, and holding for five breaths. Return to starting position, and repeat this exercise 3-5 times. To make this exercise more advanced, alternate lifting one leg up off the ball 1-2 inches during each bridge.
4. Front Walkouts
This exercise helps to engage all of the core muscles gently. Begin by placing the yoga ball under your chest with hands on the floor, body in plank position. Gently walk your hands forward so the ball will move down from your chest to your feet, working to maintain good form and balance. Slowly walk back to start position and repeat this exercise 3-5 times. This exercise can also be reversed by beginning in a sitting position and gently walking the feet out to move the ball up the back to the neck.
5. Gentle Crunches
People who experience chronic back pain are often advised to avoid doing crunches or sit-ups, as this can aggravate pain. However, by using a ball, crunches can be performed gently without added strain on the lower back. For basic crunches using an exercise ball, begin by sitting on the apparatus with arms crossed over the chest and feet flat on the floor. Gently lean back, pushing the pelvis upward and going up onto your toes and engaging abdominal muscles. Return to the neutral position, and repeat this exercise 5 times. Use variations to isolate different abdominal muscles by raising arms overhead and turning right arm to left knee, left arm to right knee alternating throughout the exercise.
Lower back pain affects millions of people each year. As we get older, lower back pain becomes more common, bringing more people into emergency rooms and doctors offices. By properly stretching and exercising the muscles in the back, abdomen, pelvis, and core, many incidents of lower back pain can be eased or avoided altogether. One of the most gentle, effective ways to help strengthen and stretch these muscles is by using a yoga ball to enhance stability and engage muscles in the spine and core.
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