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Situps have long been considered a reliable standard in the quest for stronger abdominal muscles. But now this popular exercise is losing once-loyal fans due to the knowledge that they can lead to painful low back pain, neck strain and sometimes even injury to pelvic organs, when executed improperly.
A Risk to Your Lower Back
The repeated flexing action of situps causes your spine to be subjected to high levels of compression. Over time, this movement may cause a bulging, or herniated, disk that could lead to chronic back and leg pain. This action could also lead to a pinched nerve, causing you to experience a tingling sensation in your back or legs, or sometimes shooting pains. Situps involving anchoring your feet to the ground; those that require keeping your legs straight may be even more damaging to your back due to overextension.
A Possible Pain in the Neck
Interlacing your fingers behind your head during situps causes you to pull on your neck in order to force your body upward, instead of engaging your abdominal muscles. This can place great strain on your neck, risking possible injury. Also a pinched nerve may occur in the neck when excessive pressure is applied, or if a situp has been poorly executed. You may experience numbness, tingling or shooting pains radiating from your neck down your arm.
Other Health Risks
Poorly executed situps can cause excessive pressure on your abdomen which can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, hemorrhoids or hernia. Prolapse can cause incontinence, the inability to control your bladder function. Hemorrhoids may cause rectal bleeding, itching and a burning sensation. Hernia may appear as anything from a painless lump in the groin to a bowel obstruction, which is a medical emergency. Each of these pressure-related injuries may make medical intervention necessary, including possible corrective surgery.
Less Strain, Less Pain
You can still perform situps as part of your regular workout routine if you practice proper alignment, body control and consistency, states the University of Rochester Medical Center's Health Encyclopedia. Using a workout ball such as the Bosu (both sides utilized) can give your abs a good workout. This tool forces your core muscles to work in order to remain steady, helping you to gain both balance and strength. Abdominal strengthening planks, pushups and one-legged bridges are some of the exercises you may execute while using this product.