Back pain may be a common affliction these days, but living with it does not necessarily have to be a common reaction. Back pain results from myriad causes, from sports injuries to poor posture to the compounded stress of walking long distances. Hyperextension is a term used to describe both a type of back injury and a back exercise that can alleviate such pain.
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Activities that place a great deal of stress on the lower back can cause a hyperextension injury. Dance and gymnastics are two activities that require overstretching of the spine. A hyperextension injury is usually characterized by the sudden onset of pain, followed by pain that accompanies normal everyday activities. Such injuries may also disrupt sleeping patterns.
Hyperextensions function by strengthening the lower back muscles. Such exercises increase lower back flexibility and minimizing the risk of injury. Bodybuilders use hyperextensions to protect their lower backs from the risk of injury from lifting heavy weights. Other athletes, such as dancers and runners, employ them to recover from lower back pain and prevent stress-induced injury.
Exercises can be accomplished on an angled hyperextension bench to strengthen the lower back. An adjustable pad accommodates the thighs, while foot restraints hold the ankles in place. The user moves his upper body up and down using his lower back muscles. Hands are typically placed behind the head or crossed in front of the chest throughout the routine.
Floor hyperextensions don't require the use of special equipment. Begin by lying face down on a floor or mat, with elbows close to the body. The person then pushes up her torso, allowing her elbows to support her body weight while her hips remain on the floor. That position is held for up to 15 seconds before returning to the floor. Several repetitions can reduce tension and improve flexibility.
Once back pain is alleviated, greater resistance can be added to hyperextensions to improve muscle strength and flexibility in the lower back. For instance, a hyperextension bench user can grasp a weight plate or dumbbell during exercises. For the beginner, however, it is important to avoid extra weight and start exercises slowly to avoid prompting or exacerbating pain.