Low back injuries often restrict movement and lead to the weakening of low back muscles. Exercise balls are a great option for a gentle core-strengthening program that can stabilize the muscles surrounding the spine and help prevent future injury.
One of the simplest ways to incorporate an exercise ball into your routine is just to practice sitting on it. Sitting on the ball activates the core muscles required to maintain balance. If you are having trouble balancing, deflate the ball a little for added stability. If your balance feels good, try replacing your office chair with an exercise ball or sitting on the ball while watching television. Besides working your core muscles, the ball also reduces stress on the spine.
Once you feel comfortable on the ball, more advanced exercises can be introduced into the routine, including squats. Many low back injuries occur as a result of improper lifting; squats that use an exercise ball for support (the exercise ball is placed against the wall behind the small of the back) train the back to retain proper posture and train the knees not to extend over the toes. Being aware of proper body mechanics while lifting heavy objects can help prevent potential low back injuries. Learn more in Avoid Back Injury with the Right Lifting Techniques.
The benefits of an exercise ball go beyond rehabilitation of a back injury. The muscle action required to remain upright on the ball also helps in finding a neutral spine position, improving posture, increasing low back mobility, and developing overall strength and control of the core muscles—both back and abdominal.
As with any exercise program, it is essential to consult your doctor or a licensed physical therapist before beginning. Many exercise balls may come with their own set of exercises, but attempting an advanced move before you are ready can lead to injury. A trained professional can give you a list of exercises tailored to your specific needs, and can show you how to use the exercise ball properly.