The third ball trick is another flexibility exercise. This one stretches or tractions the lower back lengthwise. Known in clinical circles as lumbar distraction, this now goes for mucho bucks times many many visits and is one of the main treatments for low back disc herniations – though it’s still a bargain compared to the popular surgical alternatives. Look for ads for Lordex as an example.
Anyway, I’m not saying you can do the same thing with a $40 ball… there must be some difference.
The point is that compression on the lower back discs is big. In the standing position, two thirds of your body weight is resting on the lowest lumbar disc. Even under ideal mechanical circumstances which few of us enjoy, the pressure is immense. Sitting down increases the pressure by about 30% so you can see why all the time people spend sitting can get to be a problem.
To do the exercise start with your knees on the floor and the ball pulled into your waist (pretend you have a bell and act like you are going to lay it up over the ball). Then lean over the ball putting the arms (crossed) under the lower rib cage. Before your knees even leave the ground you should feel a pulling in the lower back. If you go over the ball until the lower back is over the top of the ball you will have a lot of traction force working on the lower back: all the upper body going one way; all the lower body going the other. Depending on your condition you can experiment with the difference between barely feeling a pull in the lower back while the knees are still on the ground and feeling the full force of your weight pulling you apart. Start with a little, done for short periods a few times; build up to more pressure done for longer periods more times.
Simple as that; now the precautions. First this exercise isn’t for sissys, be sure you have command of the ball (feet/knees apart will help with balance). Again, as always, a healthy young low back will tolerate all the acrobatics the ball can offer. An acute disc herniation or latent serious disc condition will easily flare up – just getting down and back up off the ball if you aren’t careful. Second, it’s easy to over do the length of time in this traction position. Staying there forty-five seconds per minute for a few (up to say ten) minutes is usually pretty safe and won’t cause any problems. After you get a handle on how far over the ball you can comfortably go and how long you can be there, you can adjust it. I usually end up recommending doing it during the commercials, same as back-over-the-ball.
Another very serious precaution has to do with the fact that you may compress the abdominal region and put pressure up into the chest and therefore on the heart. This is what the elbows under you are all about; they help keep that from happening – otherwise, if that isn’t any kind of a problem you can dangle them on the floor. Again, though, now the head is way forward and hanging down. Be sure this isn’t a problem. There are many medical conditions for which it would not be appropriate to do this exercise so clear it with your medical professional before doing it.