The Southeastern Spine Institute

When you think about your health, you may not consider flexibility, but it’s one of the five components of ultimate physical fitness. Your muscles are like rubber bands. When a rubber band is short and tight and you apply force, it breaks easily. A longer, more elastic rubber band can withstand more force.

Stretching — including back stretches — helps your joints maintain a healthy range of motion and keeps your muscles more flexible, which in turn helps prevent injuries. While everyone’s needs are different, it’s recommended that you stretch frequently throughout the day, if possible, depending on your level of activity.

Why Should I Stretch in the Morning?

Lying immobile in bed all night causes your joints to stiffen and your body to lose flexibility. Tight muscles and joints make everyday tasks harder to do. They also promote injuries. So start the day off right by stretching when you wake up. Stretching in the morning:

  • Helps relieve built-up tension, pain and stiffness
  • Increases blood flow to prepare you for the day
  • Relaxes your muscles and results in a calmer emotional state

Good back stretches for the morning include knee-to-chest stretches, lower trunk rotations and approved twists. Speak to your doctor at the Southeastern Spine Institute to determine which exercises and stretches are right for you.

What Are the Benefits of Stretching in the Evening?

Studies show that muscles and joints are tightest in the morning. They increase in flexibility throughout the day and peak at 7:00 PM. Because muscles and joints are most flexible in the evening, you have a greater range of motion and the ability to stretch more deeply at that time of day.

Since stretching relaxes your muscles, it helps prevent them from tightening up overnight. Leg, arm and spinal stretches in the evening prepare you for a good night’s sleep and even alleviate some morning stiffness.

Why Is Stretching Before and After Exercising Beneficial?

Stretching increases the blood supply to your muscles and joints. Warm up for five to 10 minutes prior to a workout — by walking or jogging lightly — and then stretch. Stretching prior to a workout loosens up the muscles to help them resist the impact of the workout, which lessens the risk of hurting yourself.

Stretching after intense exercise loosens the muscles to reduce the shortening and tightening effect after a workout. If you don’t stretch after working out, you risk post-workout aches and pains. Stretching minimizes soreness and prevents musculoskeletal injuries.

Are There Other Times to Stretch?

A report in Medical News Today states that being sedentary increases the pressure on spinal discs by about 40 percent more than standing. This causes your pelvic muscles to become tight, pulling the body forward when you stand.

An off-balance posture stresses your bones and muscles. Frequent neck, shoulder, hip and back stretches during the workday prevent fatigue and discomfort, reduce stress and increase energy. Along with regular exercise, stretching reverses the stresses of workplace sitting.

Why Should I Focus on Back Stretches?

Back stretches keep your spine in alignment for better posture throughout the day. Other muscles contribute to posture, too, so stretching them regularly reduces or alleviates lower back pain. These muscles include the:

  • Quadriceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower back muscles
  • Hip flexors

Increase your flexibility by stretching regularly. Do flexibility exercises two to three times per week, focusing on all the major muscle and tendon groups, including your:

  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Trunk
  • Lower back
  • Hips
  • Legs
  • Ankles

If you’ve had back surgery, are undergoing treatment for back pain or want to prevent back injuries, your physical therapist at the Southeastern Spine Institute shows you how to safely engage in a variety of back stretches for all times of the day.