Swiss or stability balls, first introduced by a Swiss doctor in the 1960s, have became a popular fitness tool. Swiss balls can help to relieve back pain and prevent future episodes, reports chiropractor Thomas E. Hyde in June 29, 2001 on Spine-Health. The instability of the ball causes the muscles of the core—midsection– and back to work to keep the body balanced. Benefits of Swiss ball exercises include improved muscle strength, greater flexibility and range of motion, and better balance and posture.
Back pain sufferers should consult a health care provider before beginning a new exercise regimen.
Even small movements can be challenging at first, so Elizabeth Gillies, author of “101 Ways to Work Out on the Ball,” recommends becoming familiar with the ball before attempting more complex movements. Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor in front of you, slouch slightly with your back rounded and begin bouncing gently. Allow your body to find a neutral spinal position—your center of gravity–where your upper body is balanced on your pelvis. Bounce lightly for up to 30 minutes a day.
In her 2004 book, “Sculpt Your Body with Balls and Bands,” Denise Austin reports that the pelvic tilt stretches the lower back and firms the lower abdominal muscles. Sitting on the ball with knees bent and feet on the floor, extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height. Exhale, pull your stomach muscles in, flatten the small of your back and tilt the pelvis. Inhale and return to the beginning position.
Rotating the spine helps to stretch the muscles of the back and improve flexibility. Hyde recommends beginning by sitting on the ball with arms raised out in front and, without twisting the spine, moving both arms across the body to one side and then the other. For the next set of repetitions, turn your head in the opposite direction of the arms, still without twisting the spine. Finally, spread your feet slightly and twist the spine in the direction of the arm movement, rocking forward slightly and straightening the opposite knee as needed. Repeat each set of movements five times on each side.
The ball can be used in several positions to aid stretching and reduce pain, reports Hyde. First, sit on the ball with your arms to the sides and slowly walk your feet out, rolling the ball under your upper back. Raise your arms over your head, straighten your knees and arch over the ball, moving it to the mid-spine. If possible, touch your hands to the floor and hold for 10 seconds before returning to the starting position.
Kneeling in front of the ball, place your hands on it and roll it out from your body, keeping your back flat. Stop when your hips and knees are at a 90-degree angle. Roll the ball gently from side to side, five times on each side.
Kneeling with your chest resting on the ball, roll forward and straighten your knees. Relax around the ball to stretch the upper spine.
About this Author
Marcy Brinkley\’s articles about health care and legal issues have appeared in “Texas Health Law Reporter” and the “State Bar of Texas Health Law Section Report.” She holds a bachelor\’s degree in nursing, a master\’s degree in business administration and a Doctor of Jurisprudence.