Exercise balls, also called stability balls, are available in all colors and sizes. While they may look fun and playful, they are a serious workout tool. With many fitness companies now making exercise balls in burst-resistant polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, these balls can take a pounding, whether you use them for yoga or abdominal crunches. They can also be effectively used to rehabilitate a herniated disc.
Choosing a Ball
When selecting the right exercise ball, notes physical therapist Ron. S. Miller, take into consideration both your height and body composition. Since exercise balls range in sizes from 45 to 85 centimeters in diameter, knowing your exact height is important before purchasing. Miller suggests that when sitting on the ball, your feet should be comfortably flat on the floor with your knees at a 90-degree bend. If you're overweight, this needs to be considered as well, Miller advises on the website Spine Health. Too much weight can make a ball flatten, causing your knees to come out of that perfect 90-degree alignment. If that's the case, move up to a larger size ball.
Herniated Disc -- How It Happens
Your spinal column consists of 23 jelly-like discs -- five in the cervical region, 12 in your thoracic column and five in your lower lumbar -- snuggled safely between bony vertebra. When a disc herniates, or slips, some of its jelly-like substance slips out, exposing the liquid to nearby nerves. When this happens, depending on where your herniated disc is located, you can experience radiating, shooting pains in your arms and legs. As symptoms persist, numbness and weakness in the affected nerves can occur. Using an exercise ball can help strengthen the core to prevent or treat a herniated disc.
Strengthening the Abdominal Muscles
A strong abdomen helps create a strong spine. To treat herniated disc pain, and to reduce their recurrence by strengthening the supportive abdominal muscles, Hyde suggests using an exercise ball. Core targeting exercises -- such as abdominal crunches and squat and reaches -- streamline your midsection and tighten the muscles that support your spine, helping to pull irritating discs off nerves and prevent further injury. Regular use of an exercise ball for abdominal exercises helps develop strong core muscles, and a balanced spinal alignment.
Exercising the muscles of the lower back stabilizes spinal discs by increasing stability and balance. This can help prevent a herniated disc. Chiropractor Thomas E. Hyde uses exercises balls for patients with herniated discs because they improve flexibility and muscle strength. Hyde uses the balls to teach patients the proper way to lift, a common cause of lower lumbar injury. Stand against a wall with an exercise ball cushioned between your lower back and the wall. Position your feet 12 inches in front of your hips and keep your legs shoulder-width apart. With your back against the ball, hold onto your hips and squat down. Don't let your knees go past your toes, and only squat half way down, holding the squat for five seconds before standing. Hyde suggests doing five wall squats, working up to 10 seconds.
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