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3 ways to a more relaxed low back

January 15, 2007|Jay Blahnik | Special to The Times

Are there specific exercises that I can do to help ease my lower back pain?

DAVID

Long Beach

Because I don't know the particular reason you might be experiencing back pain, you should first see a doctor for a checkup or a physical therapist to assess your movements. But, yes, there are three specific things that almost everyone can do to improve overall back health.

* Bend, arch, reach and twist. Almost everyone sits too much during the day, which can put pressure on the discs in the back, hampering their ability to remain fully functioning and pain free. So stand up at least once every hour (more if possible) and take just one to two minutes to gently and slowly bend, arch, reach and twist at the waist. Don't move fast or aggressively, but slowly and fluidly.

* Get on the ball. Strengthen all the muscles that help support your spine. Although there are many exercises you can do in the gym, and classes or videos that focus on your core, you can also purchase a stability ball (available online or in a sporting goods store for about $25).

With a stability ball, you can stretch the trunk by rolling gently back over the ball with your arms extended overhead. It's easy -- and feels great. You can strengthen the back by placing your abs across the top of the ball, holding your body secure with your feet, clasping your hands behind your head and gently arching and releasing the upper body for 10 to 12 repetitions. You can strengthen the abs by lying back on the ball and doing traditional crunches. These exercises take only a few minutes each day.

* Sit up straight. Many back pain problems are caused by poor posture, which can lead to tight, aggravated muscles and connective tissues around the spine. Improve your posture by doing body checks throughout the day, focusing on sitting and standing straighter than normal. Usually you have better posture when your back feels weightless and long and you feel as if you're balancing your head gently and lightly on your shoulders.

When you drive, you can set your car's rear-view mirror so that it is adjusted for a perfect view only when you are sitting up straight. Then, you will only be able see the cars behind you when your posture is perfect.

Back pain is usually caused by the small things we have done over time to create a less healthy back and trunk. So reducing aches and pains can take some time to reverse. Even if you are not experiencing back pain now, these three tips can help reduce your risk of dealing with the problem later.

Jay Blahnik, a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer, has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of "Full-Body Flexibility." He can be reached at jay@jayblahnik .com or health@latimes.com.

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