Swiss Ball Exercises

Swiss Ball Exercises

Article by John Miller

Is An Exercise Ball Good for Lower Back Pain?

Exercise Ball for Lower Back Pain

Exercise Ball & Back Pain

Back pain is often the result of having weak stabilising muscles supporting your joints. Without solid support, your joints collapse. Your bony skeletons don't stand up by themselves. The bones are held upright by efficient, supportive muscles that work across every joint in your body.

Research has shown us that pain causes these supportive muscles (known as your "stabilisers" or "inner core stability" muscles) to stop working. Research on lower back pain sufferers has found that these muscles stop working every time you experience back pain.

Even worse, in most cases, these muscles don't automatically start working again when your pain goes. They need to be deliberately re-started by your brain.

Your exercise ball is an unstable surface. When you sit or exercise upon one of these balls, your body automatically recruits your natural balance reactions. One of the critical components of your balance reaction system is the activation of your core stabilising muscles. With repeated use over just a few days, your stabilising muscles will usually automatically start working again in most cases.

So, doe the use of an exercise ball help lower back pain? In most cases, YES. But, in some cases, it can aggravate your lower back pain.  Would you please consult your trusted back pain physiotherapist for an individualised assessment and back care program?

There are several ways to reactivate your core stability muscles. One of the most effective is to use a Physio Exercise Ball. Usually, some simple exercise all exercises can often automatically 'kick start' these stabilising muscles.

Your physiotherapist has special training in the reactivation techniques of these stabilising muscles. For more advice, please get in touch with your physiotherapist.

Physiotherapist Prescribed Exercises

Why Do Physiotherapists Prescribe You Exercises?

The prescription of exercise appropriate to you and your injury or fitness level is one of the many professional skills of a physiotherapist. Whether you have suffered an acute injury, chronic deconditioning, or recovering from surgery, the correct exercise prescription is essential. That's why your physiotherapist's knowledge and skills will personalise your exercise dose.

Your physiotherapist not only is educated in injury diagnosis but also exercise physiology or the science of exercise. This training enables your physiotherapist to assess and diagnose your injury, plus also to prescribe injury, fitness or age-appropriate activities targeted to you now.

What Exercises Should You Do?

Your exercises shouldn't be painful. Would you please be cautious with some overzealous exercise prescribers who believe that the more painful the activity, the better? This isn't true—notably, the frail, immunosuppressed, deconditioned or post-operative person.

You'll find that your physiotherapist will thoroughly examine you and prescribe a series of exercises suitable for you in quantities that will not injure you further. Please seek an exercise expert, such as your physiotherapist, when you are planning your rehabilitation.

What Happens When You Stop Exercises?

Without some simple exercises, we know that specific muscles can become weak. When these supporting muscles are weak, your injured structures inadequately support and predispose you to linger symptoms or further injury. You can also over-activate adjacent muscles that may lead to further damage.

It is also essential to understand that even if you are "in good shape", you may have crucial but weak localised or stability muscles. When you have an injury, you should perform specific exercises that specifically strengthen the muscles around your injury and the adjacent joints. Your physiotherapist will assess your muscle function and prescribe the right exercises specific to your needs.

The exercises prescribed will usually be relatively simple, and do not require any special weights equipment, and can be performed safely at home.

Would You Stop Your Daily Prescription Drugs?

Your physiotherapist will prescribe your individualised dose or exercises. They are using their professional expertise to optimise your exercise dose. Would you stop taking your regular blood pressure medication because you were too busy or didn't think it worked? We would hope not!

Exercise, when prescribed by an expert such as your physiotherapist, should be treated as your recommended dose. Just like when you don't take your blood pressure medication, you can't expect the drugs to work if you don't take them as prescribed by your health professional.

So, next time you skip your "exercise dose", remember that you are not putting your health first. If you have any questions, please get in touch with your Physio Works physiotherapist for your best care.

What is the Correct Swiss Ball Size for You?

Which Exercise Ball Size is Best for You?

Exercise Balls come in various sizes depending on your height, leg length and whether you wish to use it primarily for exercising or as a posture seat. The right size exercise ball is vital to avoid causing pain or injury.

For example, your hips must be above your knees to allow the usual lower back curve to exist when sitting on your exercise ball.

Recommended Exercise Ball Size

Exercise ball diameter Person's height
45 cm 5' and under
55 cm 5'1"– 5'8"
65 cm 5'9"– 6'2"
75 cm 6'3"– 6'7"
85 cm 6'8" and taller

Exercise Ball FAQs

Is An Exercise Ball A Good Office Chair?

How Does An Exercise Ball Help Back Pain?

How To Properly Inflate An Exercise Ball


Is Sitting on an Exercise Ball Good for You?

You may not realise it, but most of us have poor posture. Unfortunately, this causes long term wear and tear on the spine.  When used as a chair, the Swiss Exercise Ball encourages you to adjust your pelvis while sitting consistently. In addition to creating better circulation in your spine, gentle bouncing and balance reactions will improve your vital postural muscles' strength in your back.

How Do You Use An Exercise Ball As A Chair?

The key to safe sitting upon an exercise ball is to have the appropriate height for you. You'll need one that lifts your seat bones just above your knee so that your thigh angle slopes slightly down from your groin to your knees. Otherwise, your lower back will curve in the wrong direction, which is a high risk of developing lower back pain.

But, once you have this ball height issue sorted, an exercise ball can successfully be used as an office chair to stimulate your postural sitting muscles as you work. This automatic muscle activation saves you time exercising those important back stability muscles, plus provides a pain-free office chair.

More Info

Why Is An Antiburtst Exercise Ball Safer?

Beware Of Cheap Swiss Exercise Balls. Are They Anti-Burst?

We strongly recommend exercise balls that come with an Anti-Burst Rating for maximum safety. Staples, pins or other sharp items may unexpectedly pierce your ball if you roll over them. Anti-Burst rated balls will deflate slowly and safely when punctured, rather than bursting suddenly like a balloon with you landing on your back, as occurs with cheap, non-Anti-Burst exercise balls.

PhysioWorks recommends only authentic, high-quality Anti-Burst exercise balls for your maximum safety and optimal comfort. Why unsafely exercise when you have options?

What Is The Minimum Anti-Burst Rating Recommended?

A 300+kg anti-burst rating ball is the minimum that you would recommend for safety purposes. Most exercise balls available that do not stipulate an anti-burst rating would have an anti-burst rating of between 100 and 200kg. They usually don't specify their anti-burst rating because it is low. A high anti-burst rating is a crucial issue if you consider exercises that involve bouncing or doing weights.

Consider Your Safety

As physiotherapists, we strongly suggest you avoid exercise balls that do not have an anti-burst rating. It's just not worth a few dollars to be potentially injured and out of action for months.

Anti-Burst Balls Keep Their Shape Better

You'll also find that the higher the AntiBurst rating, the thicker the ball casing. This thickness reduces your likelihood of puncture in the first place from simple objects such as staples.  You should consider this if your intended use is as an office chair. A higher anti-burst rated ball will also keep its shape better in the longer term.  Cheaper, thinner-walled exercise balls have the potential to stretch and become overinflated easier.

Please read our page on ball inflation tips before inflating your ball.

More info: Exercise Balls

Exercise Ball Inflation Tips

  • You can use any air pump to inflate your exercise ball. Air mattress pumps, vacuum cleaners in reverse and air compressors are the most effective. Hand-held pumps may be used but are less effective.
  • Do not overinflate your ball if it is below 20 degrees Celsius. Warm to room temperature (20 degrees or more) before inflating.
  • You determine the correct exercise ball size by diameter rather than pressure. Do not inflate the ball beyond the recommended size.
  • Inflate the ball to about 80% of diameter initially. Wait a further 24 hours before inflating to the recommended size. You should avoid using the ball within the first 24 hours.
  • Place two boxes precisely the desired distance apart using a tape measure on the floor to gauge the correct size. To test, roll your exercise ball between the boxes. When each end of the ball touches both boxes, you have the correct size.

Physiotherapy Private Health Insurance Rebates

PhysioWorks Physiotherapy and Remedial Massage are more affordable than you think. Your Private Health Insurance (PHI) usually pays for most of your treatment fees, leaving you with only a small gap payment.

However, Private Health Funds vary their rebates payable depending upon the level of cover you have taken. Some funds have kept up with the costs of modern medicine whereas, sadly, others haven't, with rebates similar to what they were a decade ago.

HICAPS - Instant Health Fund Claims

Most health funds are members of the HICAPS instant claims system.  Swipe your health insurance card at our reception counter, and you can instantly claim your physiotherapy treatment via our online Hicaps System. Remedial Massage is claimable via Hicaps for some but not all funds. Please visit Hicaps for the latest funds for more information, which can use their instant claiming system.

Private health insurance rebates are available for all of our physiotherapists. Instant claims are possible via our in-practice Hicaps system.

Third-Party Insurers

PhysioWorks practitioners are registered providers for government, Workcover and insurance companies, including:

  • Workcover
  • InjuryNet
  • Australia Post; Coles Myer; Woolworths
  • Medicare
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • CTP & Sports Insurers

The internet is full of potentially unreliable information. Please source trusted healthcare information from reputable websites such as the following.

British Medical Journal