Back Friendly Fitness
Based on his experience, almost 9 out of 10 women who complain about having a "bad back" are experiencing discomfort because of a basic musculoskeletal problem, says Dr. Hamner.
Some are simply more prone to muscle spasm. For most, the lumbar muscles supporting the lower back are too tight or too weak, or there is an imbalance and one muscle, like the hip flexor, overcompensates for a weaker one, like the hip extensor, explains Dr. Hamner.
You may also be feeling an imbalance in more than just the muscles of your back. When muscles in the shoulders and neck are too tight, back muscles are forced to overcompensate.
And since tight hamstrings, at the backs of the thighs, pull on your pelvis and tight hip muscles like the piriformis prevent you from rotating properly, you'll also want to keep your lower body limber. Along with strengthening and stretching the back muscles themselves, you need to condition the abdominal muscles to help support your spine.
If you have the classic "bad back," which is usually caused by either tight or weak muscles, check with your doctor to see if you'll benefit from these moves. Your doctor will probably need to rule out a disk problem or another abnormality that needs special therapy before you begin.
Note: All exercises should be done on an exercise mat or soft carpeting.
Lie on your back, and raise your legs straight in the air. Tuck in your pelvis, and put your hands on your abdomen. "Bicycle pedal" your legs, being sure not to arch your back. Start with 30 seconds, and work up to 1 minute over time.
What makes it back-friendly: Fosters strong thigh muscles while loosening up the back muscles.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and arms stretched out at your sides. Slowly squeeze your buttocks together while raising your hips and lower back as far as you can while still maintaining floor contact with your upper back, neck, and shoulders. Try to form a straight line between your knees and shoulders. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, then gently lower yourself to the floor. Repeat 10 times.
What makes it back-friendly: Releases tension in the lower back and hips and strengthens muscles in the upper and lower body that foster good posture.
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