Alternative therapies

What Is The Formula For A Strong Healthy Back?

Fatigue, faulty alignment and bad postural habits can make picking up a piece of paper or vacuuming as risky to your back as tackling a 200 pound load, says Dr. Kenneth Light.

Close up portrait of young Caucasian woman looking and using smart phone with scoliosis

Are you frequently tired or achy, or bothered by nagging neck and back pain? A simple answer could be your posture. Approximately 60 percent of women slouch, a problem that can cause pain and even reduce your energy level. Poor posture can also make you appear older and heavier, while a well-aligned body projects an energetic, self-confident image. Poor posture can also lead to muscle fatigue. “The extra stress poor posture puts on your muscles can leave you physically drained, which can make you feel tired,” says Dr. Light.

pain fatigue cycle

Poor posture may even affect your breathing. Some experts have observed that slumping forward may leave less room for your lungs to fill with oxygen. When your lungs don’t expand and contract properly, you may not get enough oxygen to all of the tissues throughout your body. That can sap your energy.

Back to Basics

The overall benefits of exercise are well accepted within the medical community. Additionally, it has been suggested that increased levels of fitness may reduce an individual’s risk for low back pain (LBP) and injury. Those who are fit tend to recover from injuries more quickly.
As well as being preventative, we believe that exercise is an integral component of your rehabilitation process. It is important that back exercises be incorporated into your daily routine, and be performed in addition to your recreational and job-related activities. Even though you may feel physically strong and/or have a physically challenge ing job, you may not have the strength and awareness necessary to fully utilize your trunk muscles to stabilize your spine.

Lining Up For Good Posture:

To see if you have correct posture, look at a side view of yourself in the mirror. Imagine dots at the front of your earlobe and shoulder, at the center of your hip, just behind your kneecap, and in front of your anklebone. If you mentally connect these dots, they should form a straight line.

Dr. Kenneth Light
Dr. Kenneth Light
Orthopedic Spine Surgeon

Dr. Light says the paraspinal muscles along the spine are as important as keeping the abdominal muscles strong. “Think of cables that support the mast of a sailboat. Without them, the mast would wobble and sway. To remain upright and strong, your spine needs both the abdominal muscles to lift it and the paraspinals to hold it in place.”

How To Use Gym Equipment

Before beginning an exercise program, make sure that you know the DO’S and DON’TS specific to your condition and your own body’sphysical limits. Preventive maintenance is a major key to avoiding recurrent back pain. Remember, we are not all the same-what is a good exercise for one person may not be good for you.

Start Slowly
A little exercise is better than no exercise for each major body part. Never introduce more than one exercise per workout session.

Listen To Your Body
The way your body responds to physical exercise varies from day to day. Just because you did a particular exercise with a certain amount of weight during one session, doesn’t mean that you can repeat that same exercise at that same weight next time!

Less Is More!
Start your program with no more than two sets of each exercise, using only light to moderate weight and repetitions. It’s always safer to do less, and then gradually work up to the next level. Otherwise, you invite pain that might set you back.

Remember to breathe properly with any lifting: exhale when overcoming resistance; inhale when releasing. Also, expect to experience some initial soreness following introduction of a new exercise. The sooner you ‘ice’ after exercising, the less severe will be the soreness.

Aside from using your ‘common sense’, here are a few general precautions to keep in mind – and activities to avoid:

Activities To Avoid

  • Any lifting exercise or weight machine that places a direct compressive force on the spine such as squats, leg press, military press or other heavy overhead lifting.
  • Unsupported bending forward at the waist.
  • Bending and twisting combination (even if supported).
  • Resistive abdominal exercise machines such as the abdominal machine.

Suggestions While Using Equipment


  • Keep the trunk erect-no rounding shoulder forward or bending forward at the waist.
  • Make sure to stretch hip flexor following workout. If these muscles are tight, they may contribute to faulty posture of your lower back.
  • Use front/side rails for aid in balance only. Do not use to support weight.

Exercise Bike:

  • Adjust seat height so that, with your foot flat in the pedal and the pedal pushed to the bottom, you may have a 10–p;20 degree bend in your knee.
  • Keep handlebars chest high to assist in maintaining anupright posture.
  • Sit erect using abdominal muscles to maintain a good pelvic neutral position. If this is too difficult, you can push the bike back toward a wall and use a pillow or rolled towel between your lower back and wall to add support. This will help avoid slouching/rounding of your upper or lower back.
  • Always be sure to stretch as youwould following any workout. If these muscles are tight, they may contribute to faulty posture of your lower back.

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