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Spine Injury Prevention Exercises

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Spine injuries and back pain are common health and performance issues, especially among athletes. Back injuries can be debilitating, and making a full recovery quickly might be difficult. Fortunately, a physical therapy regimen can help you get back to normal even after a back injury.

Another piece of good news is that most spine injuries are easily preventable. Performing spine injury prevention exercises under a physical therapist’s guidance can drastically reduce your risk of back injury.

JAG Physical Therapy is your trusted local spine health partner. We take a holistic approach through personalized back strengthening, mobility, rehabilitation, and injury prevention programs. Book your appointment today, find your nearest location, or read further below on basic strategies for spinal injury risk reduction.

What Factors Increase the Risk of Spine Injuries?

The spine is made up of 33 individual bones – the vertebrae – stacked on top of each other. The vertebrae provide attachment surfaces for back muscles and enclose the spinal cord.

Due to its modular structure and numerous functions, the spine is incredibly delicate. The lumbar spine (the curved lower end of the spinal column) and the cervical spine (making up the neck) are particularly vulnerable to injuries due to their positions and wide range of motion.

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic injury-related back pain. And an estimated 17,000 people in the US sustain some form of spinal cord injury (SCI) each year.

Some people are more susceptible to back injuries than others due to the following factors:

What Exercises Help Prevent Spine Injuries?

Exercises for preventing spine injury center around core strengthening, flexibility, proper posture, balance, and stability. Keep in mind that it’s best to consult with a physical therapist before beginning a new exercise regimen, especially if you’ve recently been injured. Here are five examples of spinal exercises that are effective as part of an injury prevention plan:

Bridge

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Tighten your abs.
  3. Raise your hips off the floor until your waist lines up with your knees.
  4. Hold the position for 3 seconds and slowly lower your hips back down while squeezing your abdominal muscles.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times.

The bridge works your lower back muscles, abs, glutes, and hamstrings. It helps build core strength without putting too much pressure on the lower back.

Bird-Dog Crunch

  1. Start on all fours with your back straight, knees directly below your hips, and hands directly below your shoulders.
  2. Extend your right arm forward into a straight stretch.
  3. At the same time, extend your left leg behind you into a straight stretch while squeezing the glutes and abs.
  4. Hold the stretch for a few seconds.
  5. Slowly bring the arm and leg down to the starting position.
  6. Repeat the stretch 10 times, alternating between each pair of opposite limbs.

This exercise strengthens your abdominal and back muscles and helps stabilize your spine. It also works the glutes, shoulder muscles, and upper back.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

  1. Lie flat on your back with your toes pointing to the ceiling.
  2. Bend one knee and bring it to the chest without moving the other leg or your torso.
  3. Push the knee against the chest with your hands.
  4. Hold the position for at least 10 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position and stretch the other leg.
  6. Do this 5-10 times for each leg.

This is a flexibility exercise that helps loosen the lower back, groin, and hip muscles.

Resistance Band Pull-Apart

  1. Stand upright with both arms extended and holding a resistive band in front of your chest.
  2. With the arms straight, stretch the band by pulling your arms to the sides.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull.
  4. Hold the fully extended position for a few seconds.
  5. Slowly let the elastic band retract to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times.

This exercise works the upper back and shoulder muscles, improving strength and range of motion in those areas.

Good Morning Bow

  1. Start in an upright position with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Keep your back in a neutral position, and without bending the knees, slowly lower your torso toward the floor.
  3. Bow until your back is parallel to the floor, and hold it there for 3 seconds.
  4. Slowly push through your feet to return to the starting position.
  5. You can make the exercise more challenging by holding a weight or resistive band over your shoulders.
  6. Repeat 10-15 times.

A good morning bow is much like a deadlift—only safer and less strenuous. It targets lower back muscles as well as the glutes and hamstrings.

How Can Daily Practices Aid in Preventing Spine Injuries?

Daily back exercises can greatly improve your spine’s strength, range of motion, and stability. A stronger and more flexible back is less vulnerable to injuries. However, exercising alone is not enough to completely eliminate the risk of spine injury. You should keep the following practices in mind as well, along with the guidance of your PT:

  • Get posture correction training.
  • Use proper weight-lifting techniques.
  • Avoid straining your back with excessive loading, bending, or stretching.
  • Use ergonomic aids where necessary, such as lifting belts and lumbar support.
  • Try complementary therapies such as massages, heat treatment, and yoga to improve spine flexibility.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle – eating a balanced diet, not smoking, and staying active.

Preventing back injuries ultimately comes down to maintaining a healthy spine. And no one strategy touches on all aspects of spine health. This means that it takes a combination of exercises, therapeutic interventions, and lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy, injury-free spine.

Protect Your Spine with JAG Physical Therapy

JAG Physical Therapy’s spine rehabilitation and injury prevention programs can answer your spinal health concerns, including pain, injury recovery, and injury risk. Contact us today to learn more or book your appointment for professional guidance on keeping your back healthy.