Banish that backache

Back bane A bad back can be rectified with gentle exercises

Back bane A bad back can be rectified with gentle exercises   | Photo Credit: PHOTO: SHAJU JOHN

Fitness for life Strengthen your abdomen for a stronger back

Back problems affect millions, and the numbers increase as we grow older. Lifting weights incorrectly is a common cause of back spasms, torn back ligaments and slipped intervertebral discs. Once an intervertebral disc prolapses, physiotherapy, after a period of bed rest, is the standard initial treatment. The physiotherapy comprises back and abdominal exercises. Strong back and abdominal muscles take a lot of stress away from the spine. This is vital for protecting a permanently weakened back from further injury. Many disc prolapse sufferers can lead a near normal life if they strengthen their back muscles and abdomen. But you don't have to have a disc prolapse to do these exercises. Strong abs and back muscles protect the vertebral column in normal people too and lessen the chances of injury in the first place. Back exercises basically extend and strengthen thespine. Most of them can be done lying down. They are gentle exercises that involve straightening the back or holding the thigh in the air against gravity. A set of back exercises will not take more than 15 minutes per day, and it is a shame that more gym goers do not protect their backs by doing them.

Exercise gently

Swimming and walking are great exercises for the back. Running and jogging are not. Any exercise that causes back pain should be stopped immediately. The severity of a back injury often bears little relation to the intensity of pain, and working through mild pain is not worth it. Abdominal muscles stabilise the trunk from the front. Folks with uninjured backs should do all the abdominal exercises they can handle. For those with slipped discs and other back problems, abdominal exercises are essential but tricky - because flexing the back is one way to exacerbate a back problem. Physiotherapy prescribed for patients gets around this by working the abdomen with minimal flexion of the trunk. You do not need washboard abdomens to protect your back. The gentle exercises meant to build up your abs are effective and that is all that matters. RAJIV. M

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