Whilst shopping in Sainsbury's this evening an article on the front page of the Guardian caught my attention: 'Lower back pain being treated badly on a global scale, study says'. (The article is available in full on the Guardian's website). The essence of this article was that the most effective treatment for lower back pain is exercise and therapy, but this was not being offered as readily as it might. Happily, the UK and our NHS came out an awful lot better with this advice than many countries, but was still not frequent enough. 🤔
Now, one of the most frequent questions we get asked is what exercise can I do for my back? Well there are a lot of them and some are more suitable than others depending on your actual condition. However, there is something readily available that will help almost everybody, what is it? Cast your eyes up to the photo on the left; it's of the corner of our clinic, and what do you see?
No...not Sid the skeleton!..... look above his head. Yep, that's a humble gym ball, very nice, and we use it day in day out. But what's the big deal? Well the big deal is that the gym ball, or Swiss ball, to give it it's original name, was developed exactly for the purpose of strengthening the muscles that stabilise the spine to relieve back pain. Modern life has lead to a tendency for the spinal stabilisers to become weak and lazy.
The Swiss ball quite simply creates inherent instability through the pelvis and spine when it is sat on, this results in the pelvic and spinal stabilisers have to switch on. Mixed in with some hands on therapy to help realign the body, it's is a deceptively powerful tool and you could do a lot worse than sit on your Swiss ball for 10 minutes several times a day. But if you want to add this into your back care and why wait for your back to get bad in the first place? You will need the right ball for the job! The Swiss ball has in recent years morphed into a general fitness item, which has lead to less appreciation of its original function and there are now many balls out there that are not designed specifically for the task of stabilising the spine.
So, here's what you need to look for: The ball needs to be the right size for spinal work. When you sit on it your thighs should be at right angles to the ground or sloping no more than 10 degrees. The material needs to be of correct quality and construction for spinal work. The ball should not deform or allow you to sink into it when seated, you should find yourself perched on top of it. It's also essential to make sure the ball you are using has an anti burst system, many do not! It should be marked ABS or anti burst clearly on the ball.
So thats it, every household should have one, sit on it to do your e-mails, sit on it to watch a little T.V. But just ensure it's the right ball for the job and don't overdo it, those poor stabilisers are in for a shock when you first start. Finally, if your back feels worse from sitting on the ball it's most definitely time to seek professional help. 😀