The back has three regions; the cervical (neck area spine) which does most of the movements, the thoracic spine which is the chest area, immobile and held together by the ribs, the lower back (lumber spine) also moves but needs a lot of strengthening because a lot of body weight pressure is exerted on it.
According to Dr Nobert Bwana, a physiotherapist, the spine in the neck naturally curves inwards, the middle spine outward and the lower back spine curves inwards.
These curves work in harmony to keep the body’s centre of gravity aligned over the hips and pelvis. If the curve arches too far inward, someone suffers from a condition called lordosis.
“This affects the lower back and neck leading to excess pressure on the spine, causing pain and discomfort. It is, therefore, important to have a posture that will maintain the curve in the lower back,” Dr Bwana says.
At 50, Michael Luwaga, a businessman had severe back pain. He spent many hours of the day seated in his shop since he had workers that did most of the heavy lifting.
“I had to seek medical help because I was in intense pain. I could not sleep at night. The doctor told me that my lower back had curved inwards and this was the cause for my pain. He recommended that I get frequent massages, prescribed some medication but most importantly, to exercise,” Luwaga recalls.
After some days of walking, he got relief and now he has made it a routine. “When I close my shop at about 7pm, I walk for 30 minutes and although I walk slowly, it has been beneficial because I have not suffered from back pain,” he says.
According to Dr Bwana, lower back pain can be corrected by strengthening the lower back muscles. Without exercise, your body will exert more strain on your bones and ligaments thereby increasing the risks of injuries.
Why these exercises?
About 75 per cent of body weight is exerted on the lower back. It is, therefore, important that everyone undertakes lower back strengthening exercises.
The lower back is also supported by a network of muscles that aid in movement and extension (keep you in the right posture).
There are injuries that are posture-related and those that are age-related. If you have strong lower back muscles, the risk of developing injuries are lower than among people who do not do such exercises at all.
All exercises that involve the use of legs are good for strengthening lower back muscles.
Everyone, irrespective of their age needs these lower back strengthening exercises and no one should be excluded from them. Their intensity, however, should depend on age and intention.
Dr Bwana says such exercises may include jogging, brisk walking and swimming. The more you do them, the stronger your lower back muscles. There are also back extension exercises but these must be done under the supervision of a physiotherapist.
Lay down with your face down then lift the chest off the ground while the feet remain straight and down. These can be repeated 10 times.
The other exercise is when you lay straight on the ground and lift your legs one at a time. Repeat this 10 times and let it be part of your routine exercises to strengthen your lower back muscles and for better posture, according to Dr Bwana.
People with degenerative problems and those who are above 50 have started showing physical signs of age related degeneration and their flexibility is compromised.
Such should be under the instruction of a physiotherapist or the exercises to strengthen their lower back muscles would instead increase back pain.
“Aggressive exercises in the gym which involve weight lifts and squats should only be done under the supervision of a physiotherapist because they are likely to cause damage and injury to the lower back,” Dr Nobert Bwana, a physiotherapist at Physique Fitness Centre, advises.