Exercise programme: flexibility and strength

The following programme combines flexibility and strengthening exercises to help prevent or alleviate lower back pain. You should consult an osteopath before starting this programme if you already have acute or chronic lower back pain.

A good way to sit at work or at home watching television. Sit on a Swiss ball with your back straight and abdominals tightened at 25%. Keep your shoulder blades back. It will feel strange to begin with, but you will get used to it.

When standing, keep your shoulder blades back and tighten your abdominals. The correct anatomical position is having your ears, shoulders and tail bone all aligned.

Complete this programme daily.

The hip flexor stretch. (Picture 1)
Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and repeat three times each leg. Always stretch to a point that is uncomfortable but NOT painful. Push the pelvis forward and take the upper body back to get more from this stretch.

The hamstring stretch. (Picture 2)
Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and repeat three times each leg. Keep your leg straight. The objective is to reach and hold your toes.

Swiss ball hamstring leg curl. (Pictures 3 and 4 )
For the first two weeks do part one and then move on to part two. Complete 8-15 repetitions and complete two to four sets daily.

- Part one: Keep your back on the floor while using your legs to bring the Swiss ball into your body. Concentrate on contracting your hamstring muscles throughout the entire exercise.

- Part two: Lift your hips up to form an even 45deg bridge with your body. Now bring the ball in, concentrating on contracting your hamstring muscles throughout the exercise. You can have a rest after each repetition by dropping your hips to the floor for a few seconds before lifting them again.

Lower abdominal workouts: (Picture 5)
While lying on the floor, have your hands underneath your lower back. Gently contract your lower abdominal muscles (the muscles that are about 10cm below your belly button) by imagining you are trying to do your belt up one more notch. You will be attempting to keep constant pressure on your hands. Try holding this contraction for 20-30 seconds before having a rest. Complete this for 5-10 minutes.

Cycling: (Picture 6)
Only do this exercise if you are pain free. Lift both legs high and slowly cycle them out. Always do this cycle motion with high legs. Do not let them drop towards the floor as this will put pressure on the lower back. Complete three sets of 12 to 30 cycles.