A flagpole anchored in weak concrete will not be able to stand up straight for long – pressure from the wind, rain, and other elements will eventually cause the structure to bend and sag. The same can be said of your spine and the muscles that support it. The muscles of your back, abdomen, pelvis, and buttocks all work as a support system for your spine. If these muscles are weak, your spine isn’t getting the support it needs to stay straight and strong. Eventually, an unsupported spine will succumb to the stresses of sitting, standing, and bad posture. The result of this may be disc protrusion, spinal stenosis, or any number of other painful back injuries.
By incorporating exercises into your everyday life that strengthen your core, you might be able to help rebuild your spine’s support system and prevent injury.
Types of Back Strengthening Exercises
Exercises designed to strengthen the back and core muscles are focused on either extension or lumbar stabilization.
- McKenzie exercises focus on extension. Named after the New Zealand physical therapist who developed the technique, these exercises aim to open the spaces between vertebrae, which may reduce disc compression and disc pain. McKenzie exercises also incorporate core muscle movements, which help to stabilize the trunk and build strength.
- Dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises aim to find your “neutral spine” position and train the core muscles to help maintain that position. Neutral spine refers to the natural curvature of the spine. When your spine is in neutral position, your back should feel completely comfortable.
A physical therapist can help you find your neutral spine position. From there, specific training exercises are used to help the body memorize the position and strengthen the surrounding muscles so they can hold it. McKenzie exercises may also be combined with the lumbar stabilization techniques to help maximize your results.
While the exercise techniques described above are designed mostly to promote back strength, your back will benefit from a variety of other physical activities. Anything that strengthens your muscles will help them to support your spine. Low-impact aerobic workouts can also be beneficial, as they help to increase circulation and oxygen flow, which in turn helps eliminate toxins and pump nutrients into your soft tissues.
Always be sure to check with your doctor before starting with any new physical activity. A qualified health professional will be able to help you determine if the techniques described in this article are right for you.