I have worked over the past decade with a lot of people (workers / friends) who have had car accidents, or other types of accidents or just poor posture over time that have left their spine crooked, muscles imbalanced, and levels of pain higher than they should be. Most of this is because people they don’t exercise at all or not the correct way when it comes to training for IMPROVED POSTURE vs. getting bigger biceps. They exercise wrong, so may be actually worsening their condition.
Enclosed is a series of exercises that can be done to improve the spine regarding core strength, specific stretching and pressure points (such as using a foam roller or therapy ball), and balance work. All of these elements are necessary regarding putting together a TOTAL program for spine health, versus just improving range of motion, or just improving general strength levels.
Wall Squats – 3 sets of 10 both legs, 2 sets of 8 each leg (alternate)
Therapy ball stretch – between shoulder blades (2X per day)
Trunk Twists – on back (3 sets each), on stomach (3 sets each – remember to tap the foot on the ground each rep)
Straddle stretch – left, right, center
Wall squats are one of the most important home strength exercises that can be done. They are helpful with strength, posture, balance, and range of motion – and dumb bells can be added to increase progressive strength levels.
After doing squats, using therapy balls and stretches such as twists and the straddle stretch (my favorite for overall lower body flexibility) can complete the session.
Knees to armpits – rock back and forth – you can grab the knees as well
Pop hip joint with fist
The above exercises are specific to hip balance and flexibility. Grabbing the feet (or even back of knees) and pulling the hips to the chest area is an excellent method for maintaining and improving hip and low back flexibility. One type of method for hip flexibility is to put the hands between the knees and push hard. You may hear a popping sound, which is the hip joint and ligament getting a stretch, and relieving some of the pressure from within the joint. May not happen every time – but is good to contract the adductor muscles in this position once and a while.
Doing one or more of these stretches during the day is very beneficial for maintain a strong, balanced, and even back in terms pain management and muscular balance.
Skeletal imbalances actually happen early in life. In my teachings I have seen students in their late teens or early 20’s have some type of muscle imbalance – mostly from poor standing posture, carrying a backpack or purse on one side, and not doing unilateral exercises with weights to balance out their body situation.
Stretches almost every day may be the most helpful in terms of balancing out the small muscles in the back area – such as inner neck muscles, Scalenes, Rotatory muscles, and also keeping fascia tight and balanced.
There is a lot of discussion these days about the value of stretching for activities such as long distance running, in which the experts state that it has no impact on performance, or the ergonomists who state that stretching in the workplace has no impact on injuries or productivity.
I beg to differ. We need look at range of motion as we do practicing a lifetime sport. Keeping flexible makes ADLs and sports activities easier to perform, and it does lessen the chance of injuries. There is research on both sides of this issue, but in looking at sports medicine, one gets to see the spectrum over decades, and a variety of activities- from aging to functional fitness, to sports performance at different levels.
These exercises represent a small portion of the many types of stretches that can be performed to help back pain and balance and strength. Executing them on a regular basis will be helpful in achieving a life long balance towards better health at any age.