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Creative, Everyday Exercises to Strengthen Your Back

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Tuchinsky's book Back Pain: It's All in Your Neck.

This article is part of a six-part series:

  1. General Back-saving Tips
  2. Strengthening Exercises for Back Pain
  3. Back-strengthening Fitness Routine: Part 1
  4. Back-strengthening Fitness Routine: Part 2
  5. Creative, Everyday Exercises to Strengthen Your Back
  6. Treating Back Pain at Home

In general, exercises that increase the strength of abdomen and back muscles (both upper and lower) will make your body better able to resist spine injuries.

The following are alternative exercises that can be practiced throughout your day.

  • Rotate shoulders, forward and back.
  • Turn head slowly side to side.
  • Watch an imaginary plane take off, just over your right shoulder. Stretch the neck, follow the plane as it moves up, around and down, disappearing behind the other shoulder. Repeat on the left side.
  • At any pause in your day—waiting for an elevator to arrive or traffic light to change—pull in your abdominal muscles, tighten and hold for 8 seconds without breathing. Relax slowly. Increase the count gradually day after day. After a week or so, practice breathing normally with the abdomen flat and contracted. Do this sitting, standing, walking.
  • Before getting out of bed in the morning, press your head hard against the pillow and hold for 6 seconds. This will not only strengthen your neck muscles, but will help you wake up in the morning.
  • As you start preparing for your day, brushing your teeth or shaving, pull in your abdominal muscles and hold them as hard as you can. Get in the habit of starting your day with your stomach muscles held in.
  • In the car, while waiting in traffic, grab the steering wheel at three and nine o'clock—that is, on either side of the wheel. Try to pull the wheel apart and hold it. Do the same, while pushing inward. While stopped in traffic, you can also push with your palms against the roof of the car. You can also push against your knees using the muscles in your forearms, chest and abdomen.
  • While waiting for an elevator, put your toe against the bottom of a wall and push hard. You should feel it in your buttocks, abdomen and lower back.
  • On the phone, you can grip the phone and squeeze hard. Also, while talking on the phone, stand astride a wastebasket with legs out straight, squeezing in against it using the muscles from your legs and hips.

To strengthen your back muscles and increase spinal flexibility, you may also choose to do some exercises throughout your day that can be done anywhere, even in public.

Updated on: 11/09/12
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