Proper spine alignment (proper posture), whether it be sitting, standing or lying down, can reduce the severity of an episode of back pain or eliminate it altogether. Proper posture means lining up the vertebrae so that the natural curve in the spine is realized. This is also called neutral alignment. Neutral alignment can be obtained by evenly strengthening the core. People often think of abdominals as the core, but a good core workout will include work on both the stomach and back. Strong muscles are the body’s defense against the strain of gravitational pull and defense needs to come from both at the front and the back.
Many machines at the gym concentrate on strengthening the upper portion of the back. The lower back is actually where much of the body’s weight is carried, so it needs its share of strengthening. This Hip/Leg Extension exercise strengthens the lower back muscles (and as an added bonus strengthens the glutes and stretches the hip):
Lie down on your stomach and stretch out your legs. The legs should be straight and pulled together. Place your arms on each side of you, bent, with elbows up to the ceiling and palms flat on the ground lined up evenly with your upper chest. Pull your shoulders down and back – don’t let them creep up around your ears. With your face down toward the ground, tilt your head up to look toward the ceiling just until the bottom of your chin is resting on the ground. Engage your abdominal muscles and buttocks. Breathe and lift the right leg about 6 inches off of the ground and hold it there for 5-10 seconds. Keep your leg straight and your foot flexed. Slowly lower the leg and repeat on the other side. You can rest between legs if necessary, don’t forget to breathe and discontinue if you begin to feel pain. Repeat the exercise 3-6 times.