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Put your back into exercise

Some people are surprised to discover that strengthening stomach muscles serves to reduce back injury though you need more than a strong back to prevent back injury.

It is clear that many people who develop back problems have not only relatively weak lower backs, but also weak abdominal muscles. Although not directly attached to the spine, the abdominals interaction with the fascial layers of the erector spinage group enhances the otherwise weak extensor mechanism of the spine.

By making the abdominals stronger, you enhance the functional effect of the spinal erector muscles. By supporting the internal organs of the abdominal region, the abdominal muscles also assist the spinal muscles by taking up some of the demand that would otherwise be placed upon them. The larger the potbelly, for example, the greater the weight and strain upon the spine.

By increasing the burden on the erector spinae group, one diminishes the capacity of the spinal muscles to sustain the extensor mechanism of the spine, and the risk of back injury is also increased.

For every extra inch you have on your waist you put 10 pounds of pressure on your spinal discs.

Gravity is pulling us towards the ground as we get older, causing us to stoop forward putting more pressure on our lower back.

This is why exercise, such as yoga, and weight-training, is so important for correct posture.

Incorrect footwear can cause serious back problems. Shoes that have no support and that are too flat can put pressure on your lower back.

Weight-training and stretching such as the Kaiser Weight Training Programme are particularly helpful for preventing back problems and for recurring back difficulties. The latest techniques for back rehabilitating is to strengthen the back with the correct weight-bearing exercises.

An incorrect seating position in a car is one of the main problems causing back injury and back soreness. If, when sitting in your car, your knee is higher than your hip, this is particularly bad for your back -- the knee should be lower than the hip.

If you are in the car a lot, get a back support cushion from The Back Shop. It can take a huge amount of pressure off your lower back.

A cushion can also help those sitting at a desk for a long time. At the desk try to put your feet up on a block or a few thick books. Again, it's simple but it works.

When swimming avoid the breast stroke as it arches the back and puts more pressure on your lower discs.

For any movement which has a jarring effect on your back, you must make sure you have support. Be aware that some yoga movements might make back pain worse.

If you have sciatica, which causes a shooting pain from your back down to your hip, knee and foot, a nerve is being compressed by a spinal disc. Consult a doctor or osteopath and take extra care to exercise correctly.

Massage is very beneficial for preventing back pain as it keeps the muscle supple. Have a massage when your back feels good, not when you are in pain.

Incorrect exercise, particularly with heavy weights, can put a lot of pressure on the lower back, L4-L5 disc area. When training, watch out for explosive movements such as squats and lunges.

Keep the back flat when lying on benches, for example bench press, pull-over, etc. Most people arch their backs with feet on the floor, so be careful.

Lower back problems are the cause of more days off work than anything else. Simply picking up something from a static position, without bending your knees, can be enough to pull muscles.

Try to keep all muscles loose with gentle stretching, yoga or Pilates and get your back strong with correct weight training.

If the back of your legs are tight it will cause your hips and lower back to also tighten up.

Years ago the only recommendation for back pain was to lie down and rest. Now it is recommended that you get fit and strong and lose the belly. If you do suffer from back pain consult your doctor, masseur, osteopath, chiropractor or physio.

The majority of back problems will sort themselves out with gentle exercise and rest if your problems persist.

Seek advice before doing any programme.