Back in Shape

Are you a human being? If so, chances are that sooner or later, you’re going to have back issues. Sitting at a desk all day doesn’t help, but heck, former MLB player Sammy Sosa once famously strained his back sneezing. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent back problems or at least lessen them. Outside of not sneezing, here are six, courtesy of Rick Olderman, MSPT, author of a series of rehab books available at fixingyou.net.

1. Unlock your knees. Standing with your legs straight may save energy — because you’re supporting yourself with your joints rather than your muscles — but it tilts your pelvis forward, causing the spinal extension that ultimately leads to back pain.

2. Shorten your stride. Longer running strides mean heavier heel strikes and more knee locking — and more back pain. A shorter, quicker stride properly engages the pelvic muscles.

3. Slouch more. We’re often told to sit up straight, but if you slouch through the lower back (rolling forward rather than slouching at the shoulders), it’s actually a healthy stretch that reduces spinal extension pain.

4. Embrace the elliptical. The stride length on this machine is very small compared to running, making it perfect for keeping your pelvis in alignment.

5. Do this warm-up stretch. While sitting on a bench with your feet spread wide, round your spine down one vertebra at a time and touch your toes for 60 seconds, feeling your back flex. Round your spine back up one vertebra at a time to return to the start. (Editor’s note: We swear by this!)

6. Wake up with a hug. Before you get out of bed in the morning, briefly hug your knees to your chest. During the night, your paraspinal muscles resume the shortened posture they’ve been in at your desk all day long. This exercise stretches out your lower back before you even move, so you feel better before you start your day.