Just about everybody suffers from the nagging to excruciating pain sometime in their lives; most often in the lower back. But why should this be so? Our bones and joints are there to give our bodies strength and leverage, but they re not really what hold us up. If you remove the muscle and ligaments, theres just a pile of loose bones which would never stay properly stacked. Its the marvelously intricate sets of opposing muscles throughout our bodies which keep things in line.
This is particularly true of the spine. The long columns of vertebral bones balancing on the pelvic girdle and interlaid with fibrous discs, look like a recipe for disaster, given the amount of bending, turning and twisting we do each day. Most of the mobility in our spines is in the length from our pelvis to our rib cage and this is where the maximum muscle strength and stabilization need to occur.
Many of us have done the infamous crunch abdominal exercise, but aside from the fact it tends to stress the lower back, it s not really very useful for stabilization and injury resistance. There s a complex cats cradle of muscles running vertically and at angles on the front , rear and sides of our body core. Its this web of surrounding muscles which are essential to normal functioning and healthy backs.
The Plank to the rescue. Almost anyone can do this simple exercise virtually anytime and anywhere including in your bed. Start on a padded surface lying on your stomach with your toes closer to your body than your heels. Lift yourself up till your body is resting on your toes and your elbows. Elbows should be lined up directly beneath your shoulders and shoulder blades should be pulled back and down as if you were trying to touch them in the middle of your back. At the same time, tighten your Gluteus or bum muscles and pull your stomach in. Increase the time to hold your position as you get stronger, until you can keep your body in a straight line for sixty seconds at least twice. After your first front plank, turn on one side and then the other. Supporting yourself on one shoulder, do the same thing until you can do at least two, thirty second reps on each side. Don t worry if you can only do it for a few seconds, it doesnt matter where you are, but how much you improve.
This will not only develop increased injury resistance for your lower back, but improve your ability to do a wide range of every day chores and sports. Try an internet search using the key words exercise, Plank and exercise, Side Plank. You ll see numerous how to videos, along with how to adapt them for those who are not yet st rong enough for full planks. Some examples include:
As always, check with your physician if you have any health issues which might affect your ability to safely do these or any exercises.
Yours in good health.
EcoSys Wellness Center
The above is not intended as medical advice. As always, consult with your physician before making changes.