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How Stability Balls Can Help With Lower-Back Pain

If You Have Back Pain, a Stability Ball Might Belong in Your Workout Routine

USA, Oregon, Portland

When lower-back pain takes its toll, the motivation to get up and move can be hard to come by. But your at-home workout routine can play a major role in relief. On top of flowing through a soothing yoga sequence or practicing Pilates, spending some time with your stability ball could help you manage and prevent the awful aches.

"Stability balls can definitely be a tool used to help people who struggle with back pain," said Nicola Banger, MScPT, a physical therapist at HSS. "Not only can they be used to help manage an acute flare-up of pain, but to also supplement a regular exercise program for prevention of back pain or in rehabilitation for existing pain."

When you think of using a stability ball, ab exercises might immediately come to mind. Banger confirmed that targeting the core with a stability ball is incredibly common — and there's a reason for that. Core training, Banger explained, can help reduce lower-back pain, improve function in daily activities, and reduce the risk of injury. The stability ball captures all the aspects of core training — improving the core muscles' strength, timing, coordination, and endurance.

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Banger added that stability balls can be used to "improve balance, proprioception (your sense of where your body is in space), stability, and awareness and control of a 'neutral' spine position," as well as "improve bending and lifting techniques, all of which can help people who experience back pain."

If you're interested in adding a stability ball to your workout routine to help prevent back pain, Banger said you'll want to first ensure you own the correct size ball: "When you sit on it, your hips should be approximately the same level as your knees, or a bit higher."

While Banger said stability balls can be used safely by most, if you have a history of recent trauma, balance issues, or falls, be especially careful: "the ball is inherently unstable, and safety is the prime concern." You can create more stability by placing the ball in a corner so it can't roll away or placing it by a support base.

On top of using the tool in your regular training, you can use it to manage pain in acute flare-ups. "They can be used for positions of relief, to get some gentle spinal motion, and to encourage light activity in a period of pain," Banger said.

Some pain-relieving positions include:

  • Lying on your back, legs up on the ball.
  • Lying with your belly on the ball, and relaxing forward over it.
  • Lying with your back on the ball, allowing your back to relax and arch back.
  • Kneeling with your hands on the ball in front of you, to get a stretch in your upper back.

Before beginning any new exercise program — especially when dealing with pain — it's always best (and safest!) to chat with a medical professional for personalized advice.

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Image Source: Getty / Cavan Images
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