Back pain is a modern plague. Maybe it’s caused by too much time sitting in ill-designed chairs at work and at home but it’s a real problem for many people, costing them days off work as well as extreme discomfort and pain.
The best way to avoid back pain is to strengthen the muscles that support your spine. Some of those muscles don’t get much of a chance to work in modern life. But if you make a conscious effort to exercise them, you can reduce the chance of future back pain and the possible need for medical intervention.
The back muscles and abdominal muscles are known as the ‘core’ muscles. Unless specifically targeted with exercises, they tend to weaken with age, leaving older people vulnerable to back pain. The abdominal and back muscles forming the spine’s support system can be placed into three groups.
The extensors, muscles in your back and gluteus, straighten the back to help you stand erect, and control the thigh bone when walking.
The flexors are abdominal muscles that support the spine from the other direction, the front of the body. They determine the arch of the back.
The obliques are side muscles that support the spine in an upright position and help with posture generally. They are stabilizers.
Some of these important muscles get used in everyday life, so that just doing a bit more can be enough to keep them functioning well. Just walking or climbing stairs makes use of the gluteal muscles, for example. But the abdominal muscles can be forgotten in everyday life and a regular exercise routine focusing on the abdomen and back, up to four times a week can protect you from the postural problems that lead to chronic backache.
You should be aware that the exercise should not be attempted when you are suffering from an acute bout of backache. You should let your body guide you as to how soon you are ready to start. And don’t stop the exercises when your back is feeling better. Muscles that aren’t used will weaken. Regular exercise should be part of everyday life.
A mix of flexion and extension exercises works best, and there are several exercise regimes, like Alexander technique and Pilates, that focus on core strength and have stood the test of time. Joining a group or class can be great as motivation and will also provide the guidance needed to get a good routine established.