Health Insights column: Learn a simple exercise for regaining back health | VailDaily.com

Health Insights column: Learn a simple exercise for regaining back health

Kirsten Stuart.

When suffering from a bad back or a back injury, people ask:

"What can I do to help my back stay strong?"

"How can I get myself out of pain?"

"How can I avoid having this happen again?"

It’s important that each one of us takes control of our wonderful bodies and stays active, and hopefully pain-free with a lower risk of injury.

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Often, it's about creating safe movements in our daily lives, as well as strengthening our spine with some simple stabilizing exercises. The amount of time you spend injured can feel like an eternity, so this can seem like a big task sometimes, but the reality is, it is simply about making small changes that will keep you from a big setback later.

If you've been through physical therapy for a back injury, then you understand the huge impact pain can have on simple daily tasks. Your therapist has guided you through exercises and stretching to decrease your pain and improve your condition.

Having been through five back surgeries, including a lumbar fusion, I have learned through trial and error some simple exercises that have allowed me to continue my active lifestyle in the valley. Through years of working one-on-one with clients who suffer from back pain, I've found that strength and flexibility help immensely, but so does identifying lazy movements daily and correcting them to stay pain- and injury-free.

As the new year has arrived, I asked myself what is it that I can do to help others get out of a negative situation such as the one in which I was once so engrossed? Without much thought, I knew I wanted to educate as many people as I could to help relieve them of pain.

finding relief

Back pain with nerve pain can be consuming, depressing and debilitating. We live in such an active, rich community that many of our social lives revolve around the sports we do. So it's important that each one of us takes control of our wonderful bodies and stays active, and hopefully stay pain-free with a lower risk of injury.

The biggest thing I've learned throughout time is to wake up your transverse muscles first thing in the morning before you even get out of bed. As you awaken in the morning and check your phone or turn on the TV to check out ski conditions, hit the snooze button a couple of times. Give yourself about 2 minutes to, what I like to refer to as, put on your internal girdle.

• Lie on your back and bend your knees with your feet on the mattress. Without lifting your neck or shoulders off of the bed, focus on contracting your lower abdominal muscles. Think about pulling your belly button downward, toward your spine, and for extra credit, incorporate a Kegel exercise. (Google, if necessary.)

• Hold for about five to 10 seconds and repeat five to 10 times, if this does not create pain. Understand that this will not feel like a normal sit-up; you should simply feel the pull from muscles contracting, not a burn from activation.

• Once you've finished, be aware of how you get out of bed and make sure you barrel roll so as not to offset the reset of your sleeping core muscles.

Your transverse muscles run horizontally across your lower abdominal area. Without the strength and stability of these muscles, the lower back is vulnerable to daily movements. It's extremely important to increase endurance and strength to maintaining a healthy lower back. It's the simple things that can make a huge difference in the big picture.

So take care of your back — you only have one, and it's worth caring for each and every day.

Kirsten Stuart is a certified personal trainer at Dogma Athletica, specializing in core exercise and back health. She can be reached at 970-688-4433 or visit http://www.dogmaathletica.com.

If you go …

What: Better Back Program, with Kirsten Stuart.

When: Noon to 1 p.m. Mondays, Feb. 6 to 27.

Where: Dogma Athletica Yoga Studio, 137 Main St., Riverwalk at Edwards.

Cost: $120.

More information: Program will teach how to safely live with lower-back injury, including strengthening exercises, stretching techniques, functional movements and identifying unsafe movement patterns and how to correct them. Call 970-688-4433 or visit dogmaathletica.com to register or learn more.