In last month's blog, "Stretching for Lower Back Relief," I described three stretches that can relieve lower back pain after a TRAM-flap, or anytime. Once your incision is completely closed and well healed (about six weeks after surgery), and you are able to lie on your stomach, you can begin back strengthening exercises (of course with your doctor's approval!). These exercises will strengthen the muscles that run along the length of your spine to help relieve pain, improve posture and create stability in the torso.
1) Press Up: Lie face down with a folded towel under your forehead to ensure proper alignment of the head and neck with the spine. Bend your elbows and rest your forearms on the floor, palms down. On an exhale, lift your head and shoulders off the floor without using any strength from your arms. Pause at the top and slowly return to the start position without resting. Begin with 10 reps and build up to one set of 15-20 reps.
2) Prone Arm and Leg Lift: Lie face down with a folded towel under your forehead, as above. Reach your arms forward with the palms down. Keeping your head resting, lift one arm and the opposite leg 3-6 inches off the floor. Hold for one second, then slowly lower your limbs. Repeat on the other side and continue alternating sides for 5-10 reps (one rep = both sides). Keep your hips pressed down evenly throughout.
3) Kneeling Arm and Leg Lift: This version is more difficult, requiring additional balance and core stabilization. Kneel on a padded surface with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips, your head and neck in alignment with your spine. Contract your abdominals and lift one leg behind you to hip height. When you have your balance, reach the opposite arm forward to shoulder height. Hold for one second, then slowly lower both your arm and leg to the start position. Switch sides and repeat, alternating sides for 5-10 reps (one rep =both sides).
Wishing you strength and grace during the holidays and always!!
Joan is author of the best-selling book Strength Training for Women and owner of Joan Pagano Fitness in New York City.