A local trainer’s five tips for a healthy back

By Katelyn Doggett

Driving, sitting at the computer for long periods of time and lifting things the wrong way are all daily activities that can contribute to the lower back pain that is common among adults. According to the American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, and half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. Ease the suffering and help prevent further pain with these easy tips from registered strength coach Brian Mattioli of Alpine Strength in Blaine.

Trunk stability

You need to have stability in your abdominal muscles and in your spine. It’s a myth that people need to have back flexibility, which is actually counterproductive and makes the back weaker, not stronger, Mattioli said. In order to achieve trunk stability, people can perform simple exercises to strengthen the lower back and abdominal muscles. Three easy exercises include the front plank, side plank and alternating opposite arms and opposite leg raises.

Hip mobility

Sitting for many hours a day can cause people to develop tight hip flexor muscles, hamstrings and gluteus maximus muscles. These muscles become deactivated and lose their strength due to being inactive for long periods of time and begin to cause pain in the lower back. In order to have a strong back, the stress needs to be put on the muscles instead of on the spine by keeping the hips moving.

Avoid stretching lower back

Rounding the back due to poor posture puts compressive forces on the spine, and trying to stretch the lower back can cause more pain by putting the stress on the spine instead of on muscles. If you are able to keep your glutes, abs and lower back strong through hip mobility and trunk stability you’ll be in good shape, but if those are weak or if you have a lot of movement in the lower back, that is when dysfunction happens.

Thoracic spine mobility

The thoracic spine refers to the upper and middle back and consists of 12 vertebrae that need to have mobility. The thoracic spine needs to be able to rotate and extend. Easy thoracic extension exercises such as the cat-camel exercise can help with mobility and avoiding back pain, Mattioli said. To do the cat-camel, get down on hands and knees, relax your head and arch your back toward the ceiling and hold for around 15-30 seconds. Return to the starting position and then press your stomach toward the floor while lifting your buttocks toward the ceiling. Hold for 15-30 seconds, and repeat the series 2–4 times. Even though you round your back in this exercise, it is done in a position that won’t harm your back.

Implement small 

changes on a daily basis

In order to keep a healthy, pain-free lower back, Mattioli recommends trying to be on your feet as much as possible throughout the day since sitting encourages bad posture. Help your posture by taking a break from sitting at a desk by taking a short walk, talk on the phone while walking around and walk as a form of transportation as much as possible, Mattioli said. Watch your posture by keeping your abs tight and shoulders high.

For more information on keeping a healthy back and to view helpful exercises, visit alpinestrength.com or call Mattioli at 262/818-5995 to set up a training session.

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