Plain and simple, standing up, sitting and lying down would not be possible if it weren’t for the vertebral column. Made up of the vertebrae, the nerves (including the spinal cord and nerve roots) and the soft tissues (including invertebral disks, muscles, ligaments and spinal fluid), the spine, when working properly, allows pain free activity and rest.
Exercising helps to keep the various parts of the spine working properly. Exercise also helps to keep us fit so that our spine isn’t burdened with extra weight. Stretching and strengthening conditions muscles which can help prevent back injury, or minimize the severity of injury if the spine is traumatized.
Strong muscles of the abdomen, buttocks, hips, legs and back will all support and stabilize the spinal column. The back, stomach and pelvis area muscles are referred to as the “core.” Strengthening the core and keeping the leg muscles elongated and toned help align the spine to allow for proper curvature of the spine (proper posture). Practicing good posture is probably the most important step in maintaining back health.
Legs and hips– The legs are large muscle masses that are made to carry weight. Strong hamstrings and quadriceps provide stability. Hips help keep the torso balanced. Tight or shortened hamstring muscles can pull on the muscles of the back and make the lower spine curve too far, this is called swayback. Keep the hamstrings especially lengthened and strong. Many people like yoga for a well-rounded stretching regimen.
Stomach muscles – Strong abdominal muscles are extremely important in back health. Without tight abs, the back can sway, you can lose your balance easier, and you are less agile. There are center abdominals and side abdominals; these muscle masses should not be ignored.
Back Muscles – Back muscles are often neglected. People think of working their core and they do crunches and other abdominal work, but forget about the back. With spine health, you can’t have one without the other; you have to work the muscles on both sides of the spine so that it is supported on both sides.
If there is pain being felt, starting an exercise plan should be discussed with a health care professional, however it is generally agreed that staying active can actually help back pain, as long as the activity is modified to be gentle.
There are generally two kinds of exercises for the back; those that are designed to help reduce back pain, and those that help to stabilize and strengthen the back. Stretching should include both a flex and an extension of the spine.