Back pain can plague an individual. It makes simple tasks tortuous and even sitting becomes a game of strategy full of small pillows and supportive chairs.
Exercise balls have many benefits. They keep your core strong and challenge your balance throughout the day so you don’t end up slumping in your chair. But do they help with back pain – or at least not worsen previously existing symptoms?
We know people suffering from chronic back pain are willing to try anything to go throughout their day, pain-free. Here’s what you need to know about exercise balls and how they can help back pain problems.
Table of Contents
- Are Exercise Balls Good For Back Pain?
- How Can an Exercise Ball Help Your Back Pain?
- What are 4 Exercise Ball Workouts for Back Pain?
- Should You Use an Exercise Ball at Work as an Office Chair?
- Should You Use an Exercise Ball to Help Back Pain During Pregnancy?
- Wrapping Things Up
Are Exercise Balls Good For Back Pain?
Yes! Exercise balls are a great option for people with back pain!
When you sit in a standard office chair, you have very limited options when it comes to mobility. You can move the chair side to side and adjust some features, but that’s pretty much it.
Because you’re sitting on a ball instead of a flat, stable surface, you have to be aware of your posture and how your body feels the whole time. Because sitting on an exercise ball is more ‘difficult’, it keeps your mind and body active.
Sometimes, the worst back pain isn’t caused by an accident but from not paying attention to how your body feels throughout the day. Slouching or slumping into a chair day-in and day-out will cause chronic back pain, but an exercise ball doesn’t let you sit recklessly like that.
How Can an Exercise Ball Help Your Back Pain?
1. Build Muscle
Building muscle is a great way of minimizing back pain. A stronger back is a healthier back, so that you won’t be as prone to injuries and chronic pain.
Gently bouncing on a ball all day long is a subtle but effective way of challenging your back muscles and building up strength. Your back has to remain active and aligned in order to sit on an exercise ball without slipping off; therefore it will eventually strengthen.
As a bonus, the stronger your back muscles are, the easier it will be to maintain your balance.
If you’re concerned about back pain, incorporating some low-impact back exercises into your routine will also help strengthen and stabilize your spine. Just make sure to listen to your body and move slowly when trying any new moves.
2. Helps Back Mobility
The lack of structure that comes with sitting on an exercise ball means that your back isn’t restricted to one posture. You can listen to your body throughout the day and adjust yourself accordingly without having to manipulate and change your chair.
Exercise balls do a great job of stabilizing your body. This means the muscles around the spine don’t move as much, which keeps you moving in a healthy and safe way that prevents future injuries.
That’s not to say that a good ergonomic chair won’t provide the support you need to move around freely, but an exercise ball does a great job, too.
3. Strengthens Core
What’s the core have to do with back pain? Well, the stronger the core is, the easier it is to maintain proper posture and support your spine throughout the day.
Sitting on an exercise ball without engaging your core is difficult. You won’t feel stabilized and it’s easy to slouch over and slip off the ball.
The balance and coordination required by your core muscles to sit on an exercise ball is beneficial. It helps reduce stress on the lower back. When the core muscles are engaged and active, your back and spine don’t need to work as hard to keep your body upright.
4. Introduces Movement to the Spine
Some people think that the best way to avoid back pain is to not move it at all. What’s the worst that could happen if you aren’t putting it in any uncomfortable situations? That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Keeping your back active and moving is important when avoiding or healing back pain. You want your spine to move around and be flexible.
If your back isn’t used to moving, it is more susceptible to injuries. Think about how you might feel if you ran for the first time in years. Your movements might be awkward and you would spend the next few days sore. Slowly, as you continue, running would be easier and the risk of hurting yourself would decrease. Back mobility works the same way – although you should never aim to be sore.
What are 4 Exercise Ball Workouts for Back Pain?
Just sitting on an exercise ball has a few benefits, but if you’re committed to using your ball to feel better, we’ve compiled a few easy exercise ball workouts to help alleviate back pain.
1. Circular Motions
This exercise is great for pelvic mobility and will help take stress off your lower back. Sit on the ball with your feet planted on the ground. Slowly move your hips in a circular motion, enjoying the sensation of building flexibility in your pelvic and lower back area. Make sure to repeat on the other side.
If you aren’t ready to move around in circles, you can start by rocking back-and-forth or side-to-side. Take your time and pay attention to how your body feels while moving.
2. Arm Rotations
Working on your spinal rotation will ensure you can turn around and talk to your child or a colleague without pulling something. Start sitting on the ball with your arm out in front of you at shoulder-length. While keeping them straight, move them to one side of the body, the opposite elbow can bend slightly to accommodate this movement. Repeat on the other side.
If this feels good, you can also move your head. Keep your spine still for the exercise until you know your body can handle it. Only then can you introduce a gentle spinal rotation into the exercise.
3. Glute Bridge
This exercise isn’t just for building your glutes, it’s also fantastic for strengthening lower back muscles. However, it does require a good amount of balance.
Start lying on your back with your feet on the exercise ball. The ball should be close enough to allow you to bend your knees. Once stable, lift your glutes up while squeezing them. Your lower back should also be off the ground.
Carefully lower yourself back down, then repeat several times.
4. Mobility and Core
This exercise requires some patience, so enjoy the stretch and burn while taking your time with each rep.
Start sitting on the ball normally. Slowly start inching your feet out in front of you and leaning back. Eventually, the ball should be under your upper back and your legs should be partially — if not fully — extended.
Move yourself back into the starting position, making sure that your core is activated while doing so. This will make it easier to keep your back straight while sitting up.
Should You Use an Exercise Ball at Work as an Office Chair?
Having an exercise ball as an option for your office is great, but it should not replace an office chair. The science shows that the negatives outweigh the benefits when it comes to regularly using an exercise ball as an office chair.
While sitting on an exercise ball is great for mobility and can help strengthen your back and core, an ergonomic office chair provides unmatched lumbar support that you cannot replicate on an exercise ball.
The bottom line is that while exercise balls can help with back pain, they should not be a replacement for a well-designed ergonomic chair.
Should You Use an Exercise Ball to Help Back Pain During Pregnancy?
Using an exercise ball during pregnancy helps take weight off your lower back. These are also called “birthing balls”, although they look identical.
The woman leans over the ball and uses it as support, which relieves some pressure off her back and pelvis. This is particularly useful during labor, when intense feelings of pain and pressure take over. In some cases, using a birthing ball can even shorten labor times.
Just make sure the ball is the correct size for your body. Using one that’s too big or too small may lead to discomfort.
Wrapping Things Up
There are a lot of ways that exercise balls can help or prevent back pain. The mobility and flexibility they offer keeps the spine active and loose. It also encourages the core to stay engaged.
There’s still more research that needs to be done when it comes to the benefits of exercise balls, but the most important thing you can do is listen to your body and move around accordingly. Lots of people like how supple and gentle exercise balls are, which is why they come highly recommended for alleviating back pain.
At the end of the day though, nothing can replace a good office chair, so use your exercise ball in moderation.
Has using an exercise ball helped with your back pain? What’s your favorite exercise to do with your exercise ball? We’d love to know in the comments!