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Improve Your Spine
During the colder months, it’s not always practical to maintain your normal workout routine. Winter tends to be a more sedentary season. Unfortunately, being inactive and spending a lot of time sitting has the potential to cause a lot of uncomfortable back pain — but it doesn’t have to be that way.
The pain that you feel after sitting for a long period of time comes from pressure that builds up on the intervertebral disks. However, this can be remedied with a few targeted exercises and maintenance strategies. Here are some options to improve your spine.
- Physical Therapy and then Pilates – One should not underestimate the importance of core strengthening as a way to enhance the muscles that essentially help keep the spine erect. To target the lower back, back extensions are a great way to prevent lower back pain. A licensed Physical therapist can show you a dozen great exercises and after you graduate, consider taking a Pilates class.
A few exercises to strengthen your core are the back extension with leg support (just about every gym has the equipment for this).
To do this without equipment, lie face-down on the floor and lift your torso and arms together up off the floor. Perhaps a more simple exercise is simply to stand, lower your torso and raise it again to a standing position and repeat, as if you were bowing.
Another exercise that will engage the core is single-leg chair squats. Sit on a stable, sturdy seat. Lift one foot off the floor and rise with only the other leg, into an erect posture. Lower back into the seat with control; do not drop or just fall back down. If this is impossible, use a higher height seat. Do each leg 10 times.
- Massage, Acupuncture, Osteopathy – These provide unique strategies for dealing with muscle spasm, pain and altered kinetics respectively. They are an excellent accompaniment to a dynamic lumbar stabilization program when these roadblocks occur. Muscles often go into spasm when their length is shortened.
- Yoga and Tai Chi – Once you are cleared medically and have completed physical therapy the benefits of stretching and enhancing balance could improve the gains you have already made. Restorative Yoga (mild) to improve flexibility and Tai Chi to optimize balance and gait are phenomenal long term strategies for a stronger back.
- Heat – Your spine is made up of two dozen joints. Heat is your friend in the fight against joint pain. It increases blood flow to muscles, which minimizes cramps and joint stiffness.
- Exercise – Walking, swimming and ellipticals are more active ways of being kind to your spine. In addition, the benefits obviously extend to many of the joints and muscles including the heart.
Aside from feeling results within minutes, a strengthened back and core will afford you a little more happiness and a cozier winter.
Dr. Moshe Lewis MD, MPH, MBA is currently on the Volunteer Clinical Faculty of UCSF. Dr. Lewis specializes in the non-surgical management of musculoskeletal and neurological injuries and diseases.