Therapeutic exercise helps strengthen your sore or weak back following surgery, injury, disease or age-related conditions. Try the following exercises up to three times a day for 10–30 minutes. As you gain strength, repeat them more frequently, but don’t do them for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
Listen to your spine physician’s advice and your physical therapist’s directions. Spinal medicine, as practiced by the professionals at the Southeastern Spine Institute, is a delicate art. You don’t want to overdo it because over-exercising can lead to a setback. Go easy and take it slow. Rest is vital for healing.
Exercises for your back often involve stretching other parts of your body because your back provides the skeletal foundation for all your limbs. Obtain approval from your Southeastern Spine Institute medical doctor before you begin any exercise regimen. Try these easy to advanced exercises:
1. Easy Prone Stretches
From a prone position, stretch your ankles forward and backward. Do this 10 times for each foot. Then slide your heel toward your buttocks. Don’t strain; just let your heel slide and your knee bend until it feels tight. Repeat this 10 times on each side. If you feel up to it, bend one knee and then lift the straight leg 10 inches off the ground. Hold it there for five seconds, and then lower your leg. Repeat 10 times for each leg.
2. Easy Wall Exercises
With your back against a wall and your feet about a foot in front of you, clench your abdominal muscles and slowly bend your knees 45 degrees. Hold the new position for five seconds, and then straighten up. Do this 10 times. Then face the wall with your feet still the same distance from the wall, about shoulder width apart. Keeping a hand on the wall, push up from the balls of your feet, raising your heels off the ground. Repeat 10 times.
3. Intermediate Hamstring Stretches
Lie flat on your back and bring one knee up toward your chest, grabbing it with both hands behind the knee. Hold for 20 seconds, breathing regularly. Repeat this stretch five times for each leg. Once you’ve loosened up, repeat the same exercise, except this time, bring your knee to a 90-degree bend and then straighten your leg as much as you can, until you feel your hamstring tighten. This exercise should not hurt; stretch as far as you can and no farther. Do this stretch five times for each leg.
4. Intermediate Sitting Stretch
This stretch works great if you’ve got one of those large inflatable balls, but if not, use a chair or the edge of your bed. Sit with your legs at a 90-degree angle. Raise one arm straight over your head while lifting the opposite heel off the ground. Repeat with the other arm and heel. Do this 10 times, and then repeat, except this time raise your foot off the ground instead of just your heel. Repeat 10 times.
5. Advanced Hip Exercise
Don’t do this stretch unless you get your medical doctor’s permission. Lie down at the edge of your bed, so your knees hang over the edge. Bring both knees to your chest, holding them behind the knees. Release one leg at a time, letting it drop until you feel the muscles in your hip and thigh tighten. Repeat this stretch five times for each leg, never dropping the leg too far. Let the stretch work.