Spine work is integral to any FLexercise class. And, without good spine health your life can become pretty challenging. So what is the best way to mobilise and strengthen this vital area and what should you be looking out for?
Yes, I’m afraid you need a bit of background on what’s what in the anatomy department!! Your spine is made up of 33 bones or vertebrae which all have different roles. However, the overarching job of your spine is to protect the spinal cord, keep you upright and facilitate movement. So let’s look at the different component parts,
At the top are 7 cervical vertebrae. The top two (atlas and axis) support your head. All the cervical vertebrae are responsible for mobility and normal function of your neck. Then there are 12 thoracic vertebrae that provide attachment for your ribs. Look at the spinous processes on these vertebrae. They are long and prevent extension in your thoracic area to protect your heart and ribs at the back. Next down are your 5 lumbar vertebrae. These are big and chunky because they are weight bearing and have big transverse processes at the sides for attachment for the big lower body muscles. Between each vertebrae in the cervical to lumbar section is a disc of cartilage which prevents the vertebrae rubbing against each other and act as shock absorbers. Finally, there are the 5 fused bones of your sacrum and 4 fused bones of your coccyx.
You will see from the diagram that there are natural curves in your spine, designed to provide optimum movement and load bearing. It’s really important that we don’t try to flatten out these curves as this could cause injury during exercise. Remember the days when we would always push the lumbar spine into the floor before abdominal work? It was done to supposedly support the back whilst loading the lower abdomen. Current thinking is different and now your FLexercise teacher encourages ‘neutral spine’ and lots of abdominal control to protect your lower back.
Muscles of your spine
There are many muscles on your back but here are the two we will be concentrating on. The erector spinae is a group of long muscles and tendons which originate near the sacrum and run vertically up your back, both sides of the spinal column. They extend the spine and so basically keep you upright!!! They also control spine flexion and are active in lateral (side) spine flexion. Multifidus are small triangular-shaped sets of muscles found on either side of the vertical column and go from the cervical to lumbar areas. They fill the groove on either side of the spinous processes of the vertebrae. They are key stablising muscles. Both sets of muscles are very deep and work in tandem with the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis.
Exercises for spine health
The aim is to mobilise and strengthen your spine and you can do this in a variety of ways, depending on other underlying issues/what has been recommended by your physio. Before even thinking of specific spine exercises always remember, PAF. They stand for Posture, Abdominals and Pelvic floor. Always make sure your posture is correct, always pull in your abs and pull up your pelvic floor!!
Our friends at Versus arthritis have produced some great leaflets on back exercises https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/exercising-with-arthritis/exercises-for-healthy-joints/exercises-for-the-back/
There is much debate surrounding exercises you can and can’t do with osteoporosis. The key is how far into your osteoporotic journey you are. The aim is to rebuild the building blocks of your bones. If in doubt always be guided by your physio/ medical practitioner. However, the rule of thumb seems to be don’t over flex/extend, try not to flex and rotate at the same time, take things carefully and slowly and work on building up the rest of your core muscles to take the pressure. The Royal Osteoporosis Society have some great advice on care and management of your back https://theros.org.uk/information-and-support/osteoporosis/living-with-osteoporosis/exercise-and-physical-activity-for-osteoporosis/caring-for-your-back/
Remember, your back is really important but it needs to move or you will end up with further injury and risk. Your FLexercise teacher will be able to guide you through exercises to help mobilise and strengthen your spine. Click here to see Sarah’s first session on spine exercises https://www.facebook.com/flexerciseuk/videos/370512861440664
There will be another session in 2 weeks time and we will add the link here
To find an FLexercise class near you https://www.fl-exercise.com/find-a-class/