The Southeastern Spine Institute

Mild back pain can be a nuisance. It turns everyday tasks into painful chores. Walking, exercising, working and even sitting in a chair can cause you discomfort. If you’re experiencing back pain, back stretches may be the answer.

Stretching helps improve flexibility of your joints. You may think of it as something to do when you work out, but stretching by itself should be a part of your daily routine. Ask your doctor and physical therapist at the Southeastern Spine Institute what type of stretches are best to alleviate your back pain.

Importance of Stretching

Your back is made up of joints that let you perform a wide array of movements. When these joints are under-worked, they become tight. And it’s the tightness of the joints that brings about pain.

Back stretches help extend the muscles and increase their mobility. Tight joints and muscles can interfere with the natural movement of your back, making movement painful. By working these joints and muscles, you cause them to stretch so your back can move freely without pain. Besides alleviating back pain, other benefits of stretching include improved:

  • Flexibility
  • Circulation
  • Posture

Types of Stretches

Speak to your doctor prior to doing these stretches to ensure you don’t reinjure yourself. Not all types of back stretches are good for getting rid of certain types of back pain. Some stretches can hurt your back even more by straining or over-stretching the muscles. The common types of stretching are:

  • Passive Stretching. This stretch requires the assistance of a partner or equipment. Stretch the muscle and hold it for several seconds before returning to its original position. This type of stretching is good for post-workout cool-downs, as it helps with muscle fatigue and soreness.
  • Static Stretching. This technique involves stretching a muscle to its farthest point and holding it in position. Although similar to passive stretching, this type of stretching does not involve a partner or device.
  • Dynamic Stretching. This is a common stretching method that involves movement to warm up the muscles. This type of stretching improves the flexibility and range of motion of your muscles and joints. Dynamic stretching can improve your performance when working out, too.
  • Ballistic Stretching. This type of stretching is similar to dynamic stretching, but uses bouncing movements to force your back beyond its normal range of motion. Ballistic stretching can put you at risk of further injury if not done correctly.

When to Stretch

Some types of stretches can tire your muscles and joints, making you susceptible to other injuries. But many doctors agree that you should do some type of stretching during the course of your day. For example:

  • Anytime. You don’t have to exercise to stretch. Whether you do your back stretches first thing in the morning or right before bed, making stretching a part of your daily routine lessens your chances of developing back pain.
  • Before workout. Some stretches can hurt your performance. You should focus on dynamic stretches before exercising. If you’re experiencing persistent back pain, speak to your doctor before doing dynamic stretches.
  • After workout. Ending your workout with back stretches makes your exercise much more productive. After you exercise, your muscles and joints are warmed up and circulation to them has increased.
  • After surgery. After back surgery, exercise in moderation is one way to recover. Take precautions when stretching your back after surgery, as stretching too hard could have adverse effects.

Stay Safe While Stretching

Maintaining the proper technique keeps you from injuring your back. Stretching can remedy back pain but if your back stretches are done poorly, you can do more harm than good. So:

  • Avoid extreme hyperextension of your spine.
  • If stretching is painful, stop immediately.
  • Never force movement.
  • Avoid locking any joint.
  • Do not perform circular motions.