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The Fitness Back Pain Connection Part 4

January 25, 2010 1 comment

We’ve already taken a closer look at some of the more specific stretching exercises to help prevent back pain. Now let’s examine which exercises can strengthen the numerous muscles and ligaments that our spinal column relies upon for support. Before starting exercise, it’s always a good idea to do some light stretching and engage in some light aerobic activity. This is to get the body warmed up and ready to move which, in turn, makes the muscles more receptive and responsive to strenuous activity. These are some good exercises for strengthening your back and the other core muscles.

Bridge exercise for abs and core muscles

The Bridge is a great way to work the core muscles that support the lower back and spine.

Before you begin, be especially careful not to overdo it when exercising back muscles because it’s easy to strain the back or aggravate an existing condition, like a herniated disc. Strengthening the back doesn’t happen by using a tremendous amount of weight, nor does it happen over night. It’s a gradual process that requires patience, and for those who dedicate themselves, it is well worth it. If you have a history of back pain or are currently having problems, it’s also best to consult your physician before you get started, just to make sure that you are ready for strength exercises.


The Bridge – Strengthens the buttocks, abs, and low back.

Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at 90-degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Now tighten your abs and raise your buttocks off the floor. Keep your abs tight. Your body should be a straight line, from your shoulders to you knees. Hold for a count of 5-10 seconds. Slowly lower your buttocks to the floor and repeat for 5-7 times.

The Side Plank – Exercise for strengthening the obliques (side abdominal muscles).

Lie on your side and place your elbow and forearm on the floor. Tighten your abs and push up until your shoulder is over your elbow. Keep your body – feet knees, hips, shoulders, and head – aligned and in a straight line. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times for each side.

The Wall Squat – Strengthens the back, hips, and quads.

Stand with your back firmly against the wall and your heels about 18 inches from the wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Now tighten your abs and slowly slide down the wall into a crouch with your knees bent at about 90 degrees. Stay in this position for a 5 count, then slowly slide back up the wall. Repeat 5-7 times.

Reverse Crunch – Strengthens the lower abs.

Lie flat on your back with your feet in the air and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your hands under you buttocks for support and make sure that the small of your low back remains flat on the floor. Tighten your lower abs and lift your buttocks a few inches off your hands. Hold for a one count and then lower back down. Try doing 5-15 repetitions.

Backward Leg Swing – Exercise for strengthening the gluteal muscles. Strengthening these muscles can prevent the sciatica symptoms associated with Piriformis Syndrome.

Stand behind a chair and hold onto it for support. Tighten your abs and swing one leg back diagonally until you feel your buttocks tighten. Keep your muscles as tense as you can and swing your leg back a couple more inches. Now return your leg to the floor. Repeat the flexing movement 10 times and then switch sides. Try 2-3 sets for each side.

Opposite Arm and Leg Extensions – Balancing exercise for strengthening muscles along the side of the spine, back of shoulders, and buttocks.

Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Keep your back flat and keep your abs and buttocks tight. Lift one arm up and forward so that it becomes parallel with your back. While keeping that arm extended, lift the opposite leg in the same manner. Keep your head face down and your head aligned with your spine. Try to keep your body flat as if forming a tabletop. Maintain your balance for a count of 10 and switch sides. Remember to regulate your breathing. Try doing 2-3 reps per side.


Following an exercise plan and staying with it is one way you can actively steer your life towards more tangible wellness. These are simple, effective exercises that can have a tremendous impact on how well you move and how great you feel.

At Living Well Medical in NYC, we have a wonderful piece of technology called the SpineForce that helps train the often-underutilized deep spinal muscles. What makes this device so amazing is that it actually responds to the user’s postural strengths and weaknesses while it helps rebuild critical core muscle groups, ultimately assisting in the prevention of injury. For people who are already suffering from a painful back condition, the SpineForce can actually speed the recovery process by stimulating blood flow and strengthening the core muscles typically associated with back pain.

At our NYC office, the SpineForce is just one part of a greater treatment program for treating patients who are in pain. If you’re suffering and are not sure whether you can safely perform exercises, give us a call and we’ll get you the help you need. Be sure to check out my personal website for more information.

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The Fitness Back Pain Connection Part 3

Last time, we looked at the reasons why stretching is important to reducing muscle tension and increasing range of motion in the joints, both of which contribute in the prevention of back pain. I even mentioned the specific muscle groups that take pressure off of the spine if they are stretched regularly. Now I want to take it one step further and examine some specific stretches that can both elongate and strengthen important supporting muscles and ligaments for the spine.

back stretches for fitness

Stretches like the Cobra can help strengthen the back and prevent injury.

Remember, if you have a back condition, like a herniated disc, you should check with a trained back pain specialist before performing back exercises that involve twisting or arching the back.  Below are some good stretching exercises for the prevention of back pain.

Stretches for Prevention of Back Pain

Knee to Chest: Stretches the Gluteal muscles.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Grip your left leg behind the knee and pull toward your left shoulder. Hold this position for 5 seconds and switch sides. Repeat for 3-7 sets.

Piriformis Seated Stretch: Stretches the Piriformis muscle that lies beneath the Gluteal muscles.

Sit down on a chair and place your left ankle over your right leg, right above the knee. Lean forward and hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Try 2 to 3 sets.

Seated Hamstring Stretch: Stretches the Hamstring, taking pressure off the pelvis and low back.

Sit down with your right leg extended in front of you. Bend your left knee and keep the left outer thigh close to the ground. Reach to your foot. Remember to bend at the hip and not the waist to maximize the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs. Go for 2 to 3 sets.

Standing Hamstring Stretch: Stretches the Hamstring, requires a step or bench.

Place your foot on a step or bench. Flex your foot while bending forward from your hip joint; keep your back straight. The more you lean forward, the greater the stretch for your hamstring. Hold for 30 and switch. Look to go for 2-3 sets.

Standing Quadriceps Stretch: Stretches the Quadriceps; stretching these muscles along with Hamstring muscles is important for preventing postural imbalance.

While standing bend your knee behind you and grab your ankle. Gently pull your heel toward your buttocks until you feel a gentle pull on the front part of your thigh. Hold this position for 10-20 seconds and switch sides. Repeat for 2-3 sets.

Pelvic Tilt: Lower back stretching exercise that also strengthens the abs.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten both your buttocks and your abs while flattening the small of your back against the floor. Hold for five seconds and slowly relax. Repeat for 5-15 times.

The Cobra: Back and chest stretching exercise.

Lay flat on your stomach with your forehead to the ground. Keep your arms bent and your palms down on the ground under the shoulders. Push downward with your arms as you lift your upper torso and arch your back. Hold this stretch for three full breaths before slowly returning your upper torso to the ground. Try 2-3 sets.

It’s important to remember that any time you’re performing stretching exercises to take it slow and gentle. A normal stretch should not be painful and if you feel pain, take it down a notch. Also if you’re suffering from a serious back condition like spinal stenosis, disc herniation, or sciatica, you should not perform some of these stretches unless a qualified back pain professional has cleared you. At Living Well Medical in NYC we have a wide range of treatment therapies available to help address painful back conditions. If you’re in pain and unsure whether you can safely perform certain stretching exercises, give us a call we’ll assist you in any way we can.

The Fitness-Back Pain Connection Part 2

Back Pain and FitnessNow that we know the why and the how of the fitness and back pain connection, let’s look at “how much.” That is, how much exercise should you engage in? The easy answer is… well, sorry, there is no easy answer. There is no general consensus on this topic, so the best answer is: learn your own body and find out what works best for you.

A good starting point for people looking to begin exercising would be to do low to moderate intensity exercise (like walking) of any kind 3-4 times a week for about 20-30 minutes. If you start to see and feel the benefits of this exercise regimen and want to challenge yourself further, then go for it by increasing the number of days, duration, intensity, or type of exercise. Remember, even activities that we take for granted like walking, shopping, housework, or gardening all contribute to the overall amount of exercise we engage in daily. And staying active is key to reducing the risk of developing a painful back condition, like a herniated disc.

It’s also important not to neglect stretching the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the core and spine. Muscle stretching helps reduce muscle tension and increases range of motion in the joints, which leads to improved balance and a reduction in the chances you’ll take a painful fall.  Remember to begin by warming your body up and sending blood to the muscles, which makes them more receptive to stretching and less prone to injury.  Stretching shouldn’t be rigorous or painful (you shouldn’t have to grit your teeth); it should be a gradual movement that is held for 30 seconds on each side. Here are the most important muscles to focus on to help alleviate lower back pain.

Hamstring muscles in the back of the leg help aid posture during sitting and standing, while supporting the buttocks and hip flexor muscles, all of which reduces stress on the lower back.

Psoas Major is a muscle that is attached to the front part of the lumbar (lower) spine and can great reduce the back’s range of motion if its tight, making standing or kneeling for long periods of time difficult.

Gluteus or buttocks muscles helps support hip stability as well as flexibility of the pelvic muscles

Piriformis is a muscle that extends from the back of the thigh bone to the base of the spine. Often, when this muscle is tight, it can cause sciatica pain and joint dysfunction.

Remember, exercise can help prevent or even alleviate certain kinds of back pain, but it is not a panacea for every spinal condition. Chronic back pain sufferers need to carefully moderate their levels of activity to prevent a flare-up of painful symptoms. If you’re in pain and unsure of what the next step to take is, it’s recommended you see a professional who specializes in back pain.

At Living Well Medical in NYC, Dr. Steven Shoshany is an experienced chiropractic doctor who has numerous treatment options available for patients in need of pain relief from conditions such as bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and sciatica. Give us a call and we’ll help you return to more functional, satisfying lifestyle.

The Fitness-Back Pain Connection Part 1

back pain treatment nycHere’s an interesting bit of information: if you’re lacking in physical fitness, you’re more likely to develop a back pain condition, such as a herniated disc, than someone who leads an active lifestyle. So why is this? Well, the human body is built for movement – all the joints, bones, and muscles benefit from regular physical exertion. Recent studies have found exercise to be effective in reducing symptoms and improving mobility in patients with a certain degree of lower back pain. So improving your level of fitness can help prevent or alleviate some of your back pain… but how? Here’s a few ways:

Cardiovascular exercise, or movement that heats up the body and leaves you breathing hard, works wonders for improving blood flow to all the tissues in the body. Though you might think your heart and lungs are the chief beneficiaries of this exercise, you’d be wrong. All tissues of the body benefit from the increased blood flow, including the numerous muscles and ligaments of the lower back and the core. Having these muscles strong and supple takes extra pressure off the vulnerable parts of the spine.

Staying physically fit is directly connected to being able to maintain a healthy weight. Failing to do so can lead to packing on extra pounds, which can lead to extra stress on spinal structures. Maintaining a healthy weight helps take pressure off of a spine that is likely already overstressed by postural and gravitational forces. Built up pressure is what contributes to painful problems like a pinched sciatic nerve(which causes sciatica).

Throwing on some extra weight to your exercise sessions can challenge your bones to compensate and grow. This leads to bone strengthening and helps prevent the thinning of bones, known as osteoporosis. But remember not to overdo it and focus on perfecting the form of your movements. Someone specializing in physical therapy or sports medicine can be a huge help here.

Exercise can also influence your mood in a positive way. Your body responds to exercise by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. Additionally, exercise helps boost energy levels and gets you feeling better overall. It’s important not to overlook the psychological benefits of exercise because a poor mood disposition and being fearful is linked to an increased risk of disability.

Exercise is not a “magic bullet” for back pain, though. If you’re suffering from chronic back pain, you should seek an evaluation from an experienced back pain specialist. At Living Well Medical in NYC, we have numerous therapies and treatment modalities available to both treat your back pain and boost your level of fitness. We’re with you every step of the way as you progress toward lasting pain relief and, ultimately, Living Well.