Of Muscles and MenBack muscles do two things. They hold the spine steady, and they move the spine in all directions. Some back muscles work alone, while others contract together to carry out these two tasks.
Exercises to help regain motion in the spine have been around for years. Exercises to hold the spine steady against force are much newer. These are called stabilization exercises or dynamic stability exercises. They've been taught by physical therapists for over 10 years.
Whenever something new comes along, it's a good idea to keep checking to make sure it stands the test of time. After using these exercises for the last decade, it's time to retest how well they work. A group in Canada studied a small number of men who had chronic low back pain. They measured the effect of doing three stability exercises for the low back. Muscles of the abdomen, trunk, and back were studied.
None of the exercises were intense enough to strengthen the muscles. The authors feel that these particular exercises could be used early in treatment to improve muscle coordination. It is also possible that as patients improve and begin doing more repetitions of each exercise, strengthening of key muscles might occur.
Step by step, researchers are finding which muscles work during each back stabilization exercise. They are also seeing that patients with back pain use the muscles differently than healthy people do. This will help therapists decide which exercises are best and the amount of exercise needed for each problem.
Cheryl L. Hubley-Kozey, PhD, and M. Johanne Vezina, MSc. Muscle Activation During Exercises to Improve Trunk Stability in Men With Low Back Pain. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. August 2002. Vol. 83. No. 8. Pp. 1100-1108.
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