Lower abdominal exercise is more effective at fighting back pain then bed rest or Ibuprofen. In fact, as part of a well-rounded fitness plan, lower abdominal exercise not only reduces back pain, it plays a critical role in preventing it from taking hold in the first place.
Back pain is one of the leading health concerns in America today, laying the US economy low at an estimated rate of $100 billion each year. From medical bills to disability and lost productivity in the workplace, the effects of back pain radiate far and wide across the nation.
Doctors claim it is the second leading cause of visits throughout the year, rivaled only by complaints about respiratory infections and coughs. It affects as much as 80% of the population.
With an epidemic of obesity, not to mention inactivity, plaguing the nation, it is not surprising back pain is so widespread. The lower back bears most of the body’s weight. If you lack the strength and stability in your core muscles to support it, you risk muscle strain or weakness, ligament damage and disc problems.
Fortunately, there is a simple, effective prescription: upper and lower abdominal exercise.
In order to understand why upper and lower abdominal exercise combats back pain consider how the core muscles support your body:
* the transversus abdominus, the deepest of the muscles, provides stability to your torso and assists in the exhalation of your breath;
* the abdominus rectus enables you to flex your spine—this is the muscle commonly referred to as the upper and lower abs;
* the internal and external oblique muscles allow you to turn, rotate and perform lateral movements.
These muscles, along with the hip flexors and the stabilizing muscles of your back, form the core: the region from which all of your movement originates. Keep them strong and flexible and you are better able to ward off acute (sudden, intense) and chronic (recurring) back pain and injury.
Keep back pain at bay
If you are free of back pain and want to stay that way, follow these five steps.
1. Maintain a healthy weight. Eat a low-fat, well-balanced diet and make cardio exercise a regular part of your lifestyle. You should boost your heart rate for at least 30 minutes three times a week.
2. Upper and lower abdominal exercise should be performed frequently, slowly and deliberately along with exercises for the obliques, hip flexors and back muscles.
3. Quit smoking. This habit has been found to increase your risk of accumulating dangerous intra-abdominal fat, which can lead to hypertension, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
When back pain strikes
1. Get back in the swing of things. The British Medical Journal advises that for every one week of bed rest, you require two weeks of recovery. If you must rest, keep it to one day.
2. Studies have shown that exercise is more effective than massage or electrotherapy when it comes to beating chronic back pain. Consult your doctor or physiotherapist about upper and lower abdominal exercise to relieve your symptoms.
Pelvic tilt for lower abdominal exercise
1. Lie on the floor in the crunch position. Your feet should be shoulder width apart.
2. Press your lower back against the floor then slowly lift your lower torso upwards. Hold for a count of two.
3. Slowly return to the starting position.
4. Repeat 10 to 16 times.
The bicycle for all-over abdominal exercise
1. Lie flat on the floor with your hands clasped comfortably behind your head. Press your lower back against the ground and raise your knees to a 45°. Keep your feet on the floor.
2. To protect your spine, keep your abdominal muscles contracted throughout this exercise. To do this, imagine your belly button is being pulled towards your spine. Do not hold your breath.
3. Pull one knee towards your chest as you lift the opposite leg a few inches off of the ground and straighten it.
4. Alternate your legs slowly and deliberately.
5. Repeat 10 to 16 times.
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