Many treatment programs for low back pain or sciatica incorporate use of an exercise ball to strengthen the core muscles in the stomach and back that support the spine.
Using an exercise ball for strengthening is clearly an effective way for people with lower back pain problems to rehabilitate the spine.
For many, however, it is difficult to get started using an exercise ball. This article provides several simple steps to get familiar with an exercise ball and benefit from using it on a regular basis. Once the following activities have become routine, more sophisticated exercises can be incorporated into the exercise ball program.
Sitting on an Exercise Ball
Simply sitting still on an exercise ball is an exercise as it requires the core body muscles to work to hold the body upright and balanced on the ball. It can be easier to get started sitting on an exercise ball if it is not fully inflated — a slightly deflated exercise ball is more stable.
Here’s how to sit on an exercise ball:
- Sit in the center of the ball with both feet firmly on the ground about shoulder width apart. If it is difficult to balance on the ball, use a wider stance.
- The knees should be at a 90-degree angle and in line over the ankles.
- Shoulders should be in line over the body (not hunching forward) and the head squarely over the neck (not leaning forward)
One can easily sit on the exercise ball while working at a desk or computer workstation and use it as an alternative to a traditional office chair. Others prefer to sit on it while watching television. Whatever the use, sitting on an exercise ball at some point of the day is helpful to strengthen the core muscles that support the spine.
Once sitting upright on the ball becomes comfortable, it is time to try some activity on it.
Bouncing on the Exercise Ball
A common beginning exercise is bouncing on the ball. This exercise sounds easier than it is. The challenges are keeping the body’s muscles engaged and maintaining one’s balance.
Here are a few points to keep in mind during this exercise:
- Try doing some light bounces on the ball, moving up and down about one inch.
- Keep the core muscles engaged by pulling the belly button inward towards the spine when moving up and down.
Once the movement is comfortable and familiar, try bouncing a little higher. While bouncing, some people experiment with different arm movements, such as lifting them in the air. However, keep the arms by the side or on the hips if there are feelings of instability.