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Exercise Ball Therapy for Back Pain

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 21 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Prevention; Tone; Strength; Balance;

Exercise ball therapy involves the use of a large, usually inflatable ball and certain exercises and is often recommended in the treatment of back pain particularly that in the lower region.

Exercise ball therapy can be done by anyone and is an excellent method of preventing any back injury occurring in the first instance.

What is an Exercise Ball?

Originally designed for the treatment of orthopaedic problems, especially lower back pain, exercise balls are now found frequently in mainstream gymnasiums as their preventative qualities are now recognised internationally.They are normally an inflatable device made of PVC, so will have a non-slip surface and can be cleaned easily. Companies will often provide a suitable pump, to be used for re-inflation.

Particularly useful as the exercises can be done in the privacy of the users’ home, they can also be transported when going away or to the gym.

What Does an Exercise Ball Do?

Exercise balls are used to aid in the improvement of balance, flexibility, co-ordination and increase muscle tone and strength.Once the initial back pain is under control, exercise ball therapy can be used to help prevent recurrences.

Balance can be improved as the use of this therapy introduces an element of instability that the human body will naturally adapt to. Over time, the muscles involved in this natural adaption, become strengthened, providing support to the lower back and pelvis.

A phenomenon called ‘proprioception’ is used when exercising with these balls, meaning that body’s ability to sense movements are in-tune. We become aware of our joint and limb placements due to nerve sensors situated around the muscles, joints and ligaments. Development of proprioception improves balance and co-ordination and helps to stabilise the spinal column.

Stabilisation of the spinal column can increase the ability to maintain a correct posture and teaches correct lifting techniques.

Pain relief may also be aided by the use of this therapy, as the small irregular spinal movements stimulate the production of the body’s natural pain inhibitors.

Abdominal muscles are inadvertently toned by the use of this equipment which also helps provide strength to the lower back and pelvis.

Using an Exercise Ball

As most of the balls are inflatable, consideration must be given to the correct attire. Clothing should be comfortable and non-restrictive, with no sharp features (such as belts or jewellery) in order to prevent a puncture. If possible try to purchase an accompanying information booklet or DVD with the ball, giving full instructions of its correct usage and recognised exercises. If necessary, advice from a qualified physiotherapist who is familiar with this therapy could be sought, and a suitable programme of exercise dependent on the users needs can be devised.

Build up exercises gradually and exercise frequently to gain the most benefit from this therapy. Increase the complexity of exercises as competence and confidence is gained.

The ideal size of ball is determined by the diameter being equal to that of the distance between shoulder and finger-tip of the user.

Where Can an Exercise Ball Be Purchased?

There are many internet companies offering exercise balls for a reasonable amount of money (usually less than £60), which have the benefit of being delivered to your door. The disadvantage of buying online means the purchaser cannot test the ball’s ability to maintain its shape under the users’ weight.

Some general high-street shops sell the equipment as do a selection of gymnasiums and specialist sports stores.

Exercise balls can be used for the prevention of a back problem occurring by strengthening the muscles around the spine, or as a measure for preventing a recurrence of an existing back complaint.

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