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Exercises for the Spine

Exercises for the SpineIn addition to regular cardiovascular exercise, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has also recommended a series of exercises that have been specifically chosen in order to help strengthen and condition the muscles that support the spinal column. These exercises can be done at home, and they do not require any special exercise equipment.

The primary goals of an exercise program for your spine are to make the muscles of your back, stomach, hips and thighs strong and flexible. These exercises should be incorporated into an overall program of aerobic conditioning such as walking, bike riding, swimming, or jogging. Before beginning any exercise program, check with your doctor to make sure that there are no other medical considerations that would change your approach to the exercise program. If exercise is new to you, then consider working with a certified personal trainer who can help you develop an exercise program that will meet your goals.

Low Back Exercise Guide: Regular exercises to restore the strength of your back and a gradual return to everyday activities are important for your full recovery. Your orthopaedic surgeon and physical therapist may recommend that you exercise 10 to 30 minutes a day one to three times a day during your early recovery. They may suggest some of the following exercises. This guide can help you better understand your exercise and activity program, supervised by your therapist and orthopaedic surgeon.

 

 

Initial Exercise Program

Ankle PumpsAnkle Pumps—Lie on your back. Move ankles up and down. Repeat 10 times.

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Heel SlidesHeel Slides—Lie on your back. Slowly bend and straighten knee. Repeat 10 times.

Abdominal ContractionAbdominal Contraction—Lie on your back with knees bent and hands resting below ribs. Tighten abdominal muscles to squeeze ribs down toward back. Be sure not to hold breath. Hold 5 seconds. Relax. Repeat 10 times.

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Wall SquatsWall Squats—Stand with back leaning against wall. Walk feet 12 inches in front of body. Keep abdominal muscles tight while slowly bending both knees 45 degrees. Hold 45 seconds. Slowly return to upright position. Repeat 10 times.

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Heel RaisesHeel Raises—Stand with weight even on both feet. Slowly raise heels up and down. Repeat 10 times.

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Straight Leg RaisesStraight Leg Raises—Lie on your back with one leg straight and one knee bent. Tighten abdominal muscles to stabilize low back. Slowly lift leg straight up about 6 to 12 inches and hold 1 to 5 seconds. Lower leg slowly. Repeat 10 times.

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Intermediate Exercise Program

Single Knee to Chest StretchSingle Knee to Chest Stretch—Lie on your back with both knees bent. Hold thigh behind knee and bring one knee up to chest. Hold 20 seconds. Relax. Repeat 5 times on each side.

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Hamstring StretchHamstring Stretch—Lie on your back with legs bent. Hold one thigh behind knee. Slowly straighten knee until a stretch is felt in back of thigh. Hold 20 seconds. Relax. Repeat 5 times on each side.

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Lumbar Stabilization Exercises with Swiss BallLumbar Stabilization Exercises with Swiss Ball—Abdominal muscles must remain contracted during each exercise. See "Abdominal Contraction" exercise from initial exercise program. Perform each exercise for 60 seconds. The further the ball is from your body, the harder the exercise.

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and calves resting on ball.
  2. Slowly Straighten one leg contracting your abdominal muscles at the same time.
  3. Hold for 20 seconds.
  4. Relax.
  5. Repeat 5 times on each side.

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Standing with Ball between Your Low Back and the WallStanding with Ball between Your Low Back and the Wall—Slowly bend knees 45 to 90 degrees. Hold 45 seconds. Straighten knees.

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Lie on your Stomach over BallLie on your Stomach over Ball

  1. Slowly raise both legs.
  2. Hold for five seconds.
  3. Relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

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Advanced Exercise Program

Hip Flexor StretchHip Flexor Stretch—Lie on your back near edge of bed, holding knees to the chest. Slowly lower one leg down, keeping knee bent, until a stretch is felt across top of the hip/thigh. Hold 20 seconds. Relax. Repeat 5 times on each side.

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Piriformis StretchPiriformis Stretch—Lie on back with both knees bent. Cross one leg on top of the other. Pull opposite knee to chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock/hip area. Hold 20 seconds. Relax. Repeat 5 times each side.

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Lumbar Stabilization Exercises with Swiss BallLumbar Stabilization Exercises with Swiss Ball—Lie on stomach over ball.

  1. "Walk" hands out in front of ball until ball is under legs. Reverse to starting position.
  2. "Walk" hands out in front of ball until ball is under legs and slowly raise alternating arms over head.
  3. "Walk" hands out in front of ball and slowly perform push-ups.

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Aerobic Exercises—Maintain spine in neutral position while stabilizing with abdominal muscles to protect the low back during aerobic exercise.

  1. Stationary bike for 20 to 30 minutes.
  2. Treadmill for 20 to 30 minute.