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Back Pain Center

How to Improve Your Lower Back Curve

author image Nancy Cross
Nancy Cross is a certified paralegal who has worked as an employee benefits specialist and counseled employees on retirement preparation, including financial and estate planning. In addition to writing and editing, she runs a small business with her husband and is a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).
How to Improve Your Lower Back Curve
A woman on all fours arching her back like a cat. Photo Credit Jen Grantham/iStock/Getty Images

Excessive curvature of your lower back, known as excessive lordosis or swayback, can cause your buttocks and tummy to protrude more than you'd like. But the problems can be more than cosmetic. The most common problem is back pain, but the misalignment can also cause pain in the hips and down your legs. Causes can be congenital, postural or diseases such as osteoporosis or disc deterioration. If the curve doesn't go away when you bend forward, or you have pain that won't go away or gets worse with exercise, you should see a physician. Otherwise, exercise and stretching can help.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Your back should have a natural inward curve in the lumbar, or lower back area. To determine if your lordotic curve is excessive, lie flat on your back with your legs extended or stand naturally against a wall and slide your flat hand under the curve. Your hand should fit snugly. If there's too much room, the curve is excessive. Generally, in the case of excessive lordosis, the ab muscles are weak, and the back muscles, while also weak, are tight. The best approach is to start with strengthening the ab muscles while stretching the back muscles. When the ab muscles are sufficiently strong, you can start doing back strengthening exercises as well.

Tightening Your Abs

For very weak abs, start simply. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and your arms at your sides. Take a deep breath in, expanding your abdomen rather than your diaphragm. Then exhale slowly as you tilt your pelvis and press your shoulders and back into the floor. Done properly, your tummy should go from protruding to being "hollowed." Hold this for a count of two, then return to the starting position as you slowly breath in. Start with at least 10 repetitions and move on to 15 or 20. Progress to crunches incorporating the same breathing and hollowing while simultaneously lifting your shoulders and tilting your pelvis until you feel a tightening under your ribcage. Start by sliding your hands along your sides and progress to hands crossed on your chest and then placed behind your head.

Back and Hip Stretchers

When you've finished working your abs, stay on your back and lift your bent legs off the floor. Circle your arms around the backs of your legs just above your knees and pull your knees in toward your chest. Tilt your pelvis and round your back. Another option is to get up on your hands and knees and arch your back like an "angry cat." Sportsinjuryclinic.net also recommends stretching the hip flexor muscles. Get into a lunge position bending your front knee at 90 degrees and pressing the other leg back until your knee touches the ground. Keeping your back straight, press your hips forward until you feel a stretch in the small area just above your thighs. Do each stretch three times, holding for about 15 to 30 seconds or as long as it takes for four slow breaths in and out.

Back Strengtheners

Once you can do at least 25 crunches properly with your hands behind your head -- without pulling on your neck -- it's time to look to strengthening your back with back extensions. Lie face down on a mat. For weak backs, start by using your forearms for support as you tighten your glutes and lift your upper body off the floor -- similar to a modified cobra. Progress to extensions with one arm at your side and one arm extended overhead, then both arms extended. Use a slow and controlled motion and do two sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

The Core of the Problem

After about four weeks of ab and back work, start working in some core stabilizers. To begin, lie on your back with your arms at your sides and your knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Start with a neutral, or naturally curved, spine, then contract your abs and push your back down as you slide one heal on the floor until you've fully extended that leg. Hold that position for a second, then slide back to the starting position and switch legs. Exhale on the extension and inhale on the return. Do eight to 12 repetitions for each side or 16 to 24 in all. Progress to starting in the same position but lifting one bent knee to your chest while arching your extended arm on that side up and over your head. Alternate sides, keeping your abs contracted and your torso stable throughout.

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