The Southeastern Spine Institute

Since gym class in grade school, you’ve had it drilled into your head that stretching is an unequivocally good thing. You know that a stiff body is a recipe for trouble and that gentle stretching can produce positive results. But it’s not always the case.

There are bad back stretches, and this is especially true if you’re undergoing treatment for back problems or recovering from recent back surgery. Chronic back pain can ruin your quality of life, so take every precaution possible to prevent further injury. While you should strive to keep your back limber and flexible, you’ll do well to avoid these five bad back stretches.

1. Standing Toe Touches

Toe touches are probably the first stretch you learned in gym class. After doing a few jumping jacks, the gym teacher encouraged you to reach for your toes — or at least reach to touch the back of your calves.

While this stretch is rather harmless for a young and limber body, it puts excessive stress on the ligaments and discs of your spine as you age. Your spine tends to crunch together, and this action can even pinch nerves. Consider this one of the bad back stretches and avoid it, especially if you’re recovering from back surgery.

2. Posterior Deltoid Stretch

The posterior deltoid muscle is at the top but in the back of your shoulder. This stretch involves starting with your arm straight out to your side. Then you bring your arm across the front of your body.

This stretch puts unnecessary strain on your shoulder muscles and ligaments without providing any real benefit in physical performance or the well-being of your back. Stiff posterior deltoids do not cause health problems, but overstretching them can. Put this in the category of bad back stretches.

3. Some Yoga Positions

Yoga can be an incredibly useful exercise regimen. It’s particularly useful for those who have back problems. Nevertheless, there are back stretches in yoga that can be harmful.

Yoga positions such as the Bow, Cobra and King Pigeon cause an inverted arch to the back. These poses are bad back stretches for anyone who recently underwent lower back surgery. The compression on the spinal discs can be extreme and result in discomfort or even damage.

4. Sit and Reach Stretch

The sit and reach is another one of the stretches you’ve probably seen and done innumerable times. You’re seated with your legs straight out in front of you. Then you arch your back forwards to grab your ankles or the soles of your feet.

This stretch aims to loosen both your hamstrings and lower back. Unfortunately, similar to the standing toe reach, this stretch compresses your spinal discs and vertebrae. It can also put unwanted stress on the nerves behind your knees and the back of your calves.

5. Any Stretch that Causes Pain

“No pain, no gain” has almost become a national mantra. You may not feel that you’ve accomplished anything unless your body is aching afterward. But anytime you’ve pushed yourself to the point of pain, you’ve engaged in one of the bad back stretches you need to avoid.

To stay safe, healthy and pain-free, your best bet is to consult your Southeastern Spine Institute physician for the most appropriate stretching regimen for your particular back condition. Don’t take chances with your back. Talk to the experts.