If you suffer from back pain, but still want to exercise regularly, an exercise ball is a great tool to incorporate into your routine. Exercise balls are often incorporated into physical therapy for those who suffer from back pain because they help strengthen the core muscles that support the spine. They also help to improve balance and are more gentle on the spine than floor exercises.
If back pain makes it difficult for you to participate in other exercise programs, exercise ball workouts may be right for you.
Before You Get Started
If you have a spinal condition, never begin a new exercise program without consulting your doctor first. Here are a few other things you should consider before you incorporate an exercise ball into your exercise routine:
- Consider working with a physical therapist to learn the correct technique. Certain moves may need to be modified to accommodate for your spinal condition or level of pain. A physical therapist can help you to correct your form so that you don’t end up doing more harm than good.
- Choose the right exercise ball. Exercise balls come in different sizes, so you’ll need to choose the one that best fits your body to get the best results. When sitting on the ball, your knees should be at about a 90 degree angle or slightly greater, so that your thighs are pointing downward slightly. Any more or less than that is an indicator that your exercise ball is the wrong size.
- Start slow. Balancing on an exercise ball requires the use of multiple muscle groups, so you may get tired more quickly than you expect to. Start off with shorter, easier workouts and work your way up to longer and more difficult workouts as you build up strength and balance.
Workout Moves to Try
There are numerous different moves one can do with an exercise ball, but these are some good beginner-level moves that will help you get started.
Pelvic tilts stretch the lumbar spine and help to strengthen the lower back and pelvis. To do this move, sit on the ball with your feet hip-width apart and flat on the floor. Start with the spine in a neutral position, then contract your abdominal muscles so that your pelvis tilts forward slightly and your lower back is flat. The ball should roll slightly as you tilt your pelvis. Return to the starting position, and do 8-10 repetitions.
This move can help increase the range of motion in your lower back. Start by sitting on the ball with your feet hip-width apart, placing your hands on your hips or thighs. Sit up straight and bring your shoulder blades together and down to open up the chest. Roll your pelvis in small circles, gradually widening the circles, then switch directions.
Sit on the exercise ball and extend your arms straight out in front of you. Move your arms and turn your head to the right, while twisting your spine in the direction of arm movement. If needed, straighten the knee of the opposite leg and rock forward on the ball slightly. Repeat on the opposite side, and do this move 5 times on each side.
Position your lower chest/stomach area over the exercise ball, with your legs straight and spread apart, toes flexed on the ground for stability. Place your hands on the sides of the ball for balance. Slowly lift your head and chest up from the ball as much as you can comfortably, squeezing the shoulder blades as you lift up. Do not use your hands and arms to help you push up. Return to the starting position, and repeat 5 times.
Start off with these gentle exercises, and gradually increase repetitions as you build up strength and stability. When you suffer from chronic back pain, exercising can be difficult, but these gentle exercises help to strengthen the core, improve your posture, and minimize your pain.