The great thing about back stretches is that you can do them even while you’re suffering with back pain. And very often, they can provide the quickest relief. A stretching routine keeps your muscles flexible. If done consistently, they can be a great source of pain relief. They also relieve pressure on your joints and improve blood flow to the vital points of your body.
Usually, when you’re experiencing a bout of pain, the last thing you want to do is exercise, but that may be exactly what the doctor orders. Stretching exercises are not only a great source of relief for your back, they’re also well known for preventing future back pain. To get the most out of your back stretches, use proper technique. Get the go-ahead from your doctor, as well as clear instructions from your physical therapist at Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI).
Even though back stretches can greatly benefit your back and supporting muscles, there is a danger of injuring you further if you don’t do them correctly. Improper technique also means that you’re not getting the maximum benefits. To stay safe, follow these tips for proper technique:
- Start at the neck and work your way down.
- Go slow and be gentle; don’t strain yourself to the point of pain.
- Hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds.
- Don’t bounce!
- Remember to breathe, inhale before the stretch and exhale during it.
- Alternate muscle groups and sides.
Supple, well-stretched muscles are less susceptible to injury, while non-flexible muscles restrict joint movement and increase the risk of strains and sprains. Stretch frequently but gently and remember that bouncing can cause tissue damage. If you’re unused to stretching, try holding one for a short period of time and slowly work yourself up to 30 seconds.
Stretches to Try at Home
Now that you know the benefits of back stretches and the safe way to practice them, it’s time to try them at home, with your SSI doctor’s blessings. Here are three common stretches that are ideal for helping relieve back pain:
The Lower Back Relaxer.
- Lie down on your back on a yoga mat or carpeted floor. Bend both knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor while your upper body stays relaxed. Bring one knee into your chest, pulling lightly with your hands. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, release and repeat five times for each leg.
- The Cat Cow Stretch. Get on all fours, roll your back up using your abdominal muscles. You should look like your cat when he’s giving his back a good stretch. Hold, release and repeat.
- The Cobra Stretch. Lie face down, with your arms bent and your palms flat on the floor by your head. While keeping your stomach tight, lift your chest a few inches, hold and repeat. This is a modified plank. When you get stronger, you can aim for a full plank, during which you raise yourself up on your toes and hold your back straight.
Try each of these moves in sets of as many as your doctor says you can do, three to four times a week. If possible, try to do them once a day for the best results. Back stretches are a great way to keep your back flexible and healthy. Talk to your spine doctor to see which are right for you.