Back pain is one of the consequences of living a sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, back pain also affects those who are highly active. Estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011–12 National Health Survey show that roughly 3 million Australians (13.6% of the population) have back problems. About 70-90% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives.
Whether you suffer from stiffness, aches or recurring pains, back pain exercise is one way that you can improve the condition of your back and your overall health. There are many stretches that you can perform to relieve your pain. Here are 18 easy stretches that you can try in 18 minutes to help reduce your back pain.
1. THE HAMSTRING FLOOR STRETCH
Start by lying on your back with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle. You want to make sure that you keep your hips level and your lower back down on the floor. You should do each leg one at a time by slowly straightening and grabbing the back of your leg with each hand. Gently pull your leg towards your body and hold for 30 seconds twice with each leg. You should only stretch until you feel slight discomfort, never pain. Only pull as far as your flexibility will allow.
2. KNEE TO CHEST STRETCH
Start by lying down on your back and placing your feet flat on the ground with your legs at a 90 degree angle. Pull your leg back and hold it over your chest at a 60 degree angle by using both of your hands in a clasped position. Hold the stretch until you feel minor discomfort, never pain. This stretch should be done for 20 seconds for each leg twice.
3. SPINAL STRETCH
Lie on your back and stretch your arms out to the sides at shoulder height with your palms facing downward. You should make sure that you keep your legs bent at a 90 degree angle. Take a deep breath and as you exhale start to lower your legs to one side of your body while you look in the opposite direction with your head. Then bring your knee slightly forward so that you can place your opposite hand on the top of your bent knee. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and then repeat the stretch again for the other knee.
4. THE PIRIFORMIS STRETCH
Lie on the floor and lift your right leg so that it is externally rotated away from your midline. Place the outside of your right ankle on the top of your left knee. Then slowly bring your left knee so that it goes towards your chest. When your left knee gets close enough to your chest, clasp your hands just below your left knee around your left hamstring muscle. Then use your hands to pull on your left knee and right ankle until you feel a stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then repeat the stretch with your opposite leg.
5. THE HIP FLEXORS STRETCH
Assume a kneeling position. Then bend and raise your right leg while placing your foot on the floor in front of you. Shift your weight so that it is on your right leg and shift forward. One you are in this angled-forward position you should feel a slight stretch. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then repeat the stretch with the opposite side.
6. THE QUADRICEPS LYING DOWNSTRETCH
Lie down on one side and keep your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line. Then bring your heel towards your buttocks by pulling at the ankle until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Then relax your body and repeat this stretch by turning over on your other side.
7. THE TOTAL BACK STRETCH
Choose a sturdy object, such as a table, and stand an arm's length away in front of it. Then lean forward with your knees slightly bent and grasp at the edge of the object with both of your hands. Keep your arms fully extended and your head in line with your shoulders. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds.
8. STANDING HAMSTRING STRETCH
Start by selecting a sturdy object, such as a chair or bench. Then stand facing the object and place the heel of the foot of the leg that you want to stretch on top of the seat of the chair. Make sure to keep your knee and trunk straight as you lean forward and bend at the hips. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds before returning to your starting position.
9. CAT AND CAMEL
Knee down on the floor and then place your hands on the floor so that your needs and hands are both flat on the floor. Take a deep breath and then inhale as you lift your lower rib cage. Round your back and relax your neck. While maintaining firm abdominals, exhale and lower your chest toward the floor. Look up slightly and repeat this set of motions a few times.
10. PELVIC TILT
Lie on your back and keep your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. Put your arms at your sides while keeping your palms flat. Take a deep breath. Then exhale as you flatten your back to the floor. You should feel the back of your head, your neck, and your spine press against the floor. Lift up your pelvic area as you continue to exhale. Repeat this stretch up to 30 times.
11. QUADRUPLED ARM/LEG RAISE
Kneel on your hands and knees. Then raise one arm out in front of you. Do not twist or allow your shoulders to rise up. Then slowly raise and straighten the leg on the opposite side. Make sure that you keep your neck and hips as motionless as possible. Repeat this stretch with the other arm and opposite leg.
12. PARTIAL CURL
Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent and keep your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles and tuck your chin to your chest. Place your hands on your chest and curl your upper body forward and hold this position for 3 seconds. Make sure to breathe while you do this and repeat this position 10 times per set.
13. EXTENSION EXERCISE
Lie flat on the floor face down. If lying flat is too uncomfortable, then place a pillow underneath your stomach. Hold this position for 1 minute and then press down on your hands to prop yourself up on your elbows. Hold this position for 1 second and then lower yourself back to the floor. Repeat this sequence 10 times per set.
14. SIDE PLANK
Lie on your side and use your arm to prop your upper body up on your elbow. Keeping your legs straight, start by lifting your hips off the floor for 6 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this 3 to 5 times and work up to holding the upright position for at least 30 seconds.
15. GLUTEAL STRETCH
Lie down flat on your back and bend your knees. Place your hands out to your sides and take your right leg and place the outside of your right ankle on the top of your left knee. Hold the stretch until you feel minor discomfort, never pain. This stretch should be done for 20 seconds for each leg three times.
16. PRONE SPINE STRETCHES
Lie on your stomach with your hips and legs on the floor. Place your palms under your shoulders and make sure that the tops of your feet are flat on the ground. Then slowly lift up your head as you engage your abdominal muscles. Continue with this movement until your chest and upper body are off of the floor and your arms are straightened. Your legs and fleet should remain on the floor. Hold this position for 15 seconds and then repeat this stretch 5 times.
17. BRIDGE POSE
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your arms while keeping your palms flat. Press your feet and arms into the floor and exhale as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. Drawing your tailbone in hold this position with your buttocks off the floor. Make sure that you do not squeeze your glute muscles or flex your buttocks. Hold this position for 1 minute.
Now that you have finished stretching, take a few minutes to relax. You can place a blanket under your head and a pillow under your legs. Simply lie flat with your hands out to your sides and breathe. Congratulations! You're all finished!
By practising these stretches, you can reduce your lower back pain or other back pain and get back to enjoying your life. However, you should have your stretching program reviewed by an experienced physiotherapist before you begin to ensure that you are not performing any stretches that will worsen your condition.
How Does Stretching Improve Your Health?
Stretching isn't only about helping you to maintain your fitness level it can also be beneficial for your overall health. You may think that you only need to focus on exercising as that is where you will burn the most calories. However, you also need to stretch to ensure that your muscles function properly because stretching helps to increase blood flow to your muscles. Here are some of the ways in which stretching can improve your quality of life by reducing back pain and other illnesses.
Increase Your Athletic Performance
The most common argument for stretching is that it can help you workout better. Stretching can help to improve your range of motion, which can improve your athletic performance and lower your risk of injuries. As the body ages, your muscles become tighter and the range of motion in your joints is reduced.
When the muscles become less flexible you become more susceptible to strains and injuries of the muscles and soft issues. Stretching can help to ensure that you stay as active as possible. In addition with increased flexibility from stretching, you'll also enjoy improved balance and coordination.
Improve Your Posture
If you don't stretch your muscles, you can also begin to experience poor posture. Stretching counters the effects of tight muscles which result in poor posture. When you stretch, you can correct your posture in order to ensure that the your spine stays in alignment by lengthening your tightened muscles back to their ideal positions. If you suffer from back pain, stretching can help you to reduce or eliminate your back pain.
The increased blood flow that is supplied to the muscles by stretching also ensures that your muscles receive more nutrients. This means that you can lower your muscle soreness after workouts and increase your recovery time from muscle and joint injuries. When you are experiencing less soreness, you will also find that it is easier for you to work out more often.
Stress can cause your muscles to feel more tense, which can negatively impact all areas of your body. Like exercise, stretching is a great way to reduce your stress levels. Stretching gives you an opportunity to recharge your body by giving you a few minutes of calm each day.
Although stretching may be considered secondary to your workout routine, stretching is extremely important. If you want to get the most benefits from stretching, you need to incorporate stretching into your daily workout routine or as a part of your daily life.
Helpful Tips to Help You Stay Safe While Stretching
Before you start with a stretching routine, it is important that you learn how to do each of these 18 stretches safely and effectively. While you can stretch almost anywhere, you should make sure that you always do every stretch properly. Stretching with the wrong technique can actually harm your body and lead to injuries. Here are some tips to help you stay safe as you stretch:
1. Don't stretch cold muscles. Before you stretch, you should start by doing a light walk, jog or other low intensity warm-up before you stretch. Waiting to your muscles have been warmed up is the best way to prevent injuries while stretching. In addition, if you want to stretch effectively, you should avoid stretching prior to an intense workout session, such as before track and field events. Stretching prior to the event has been shown to actually decrease your performance.
2. Hold your stretch and don't strain yourself. When you perform a stretch, you should make sure that you hold the stretch for roughly 30 seconds. Make sure that you do not bounce as this can cause injury. In addition, you should stretch only as far as your body will allow without pain. Although, you may feel some resistance from your muscles, stretching shouldn't hurt. Just remember that your body will become more flexible over time and there is no reason to overdo your stretching.
3. Set a routine for stretching. Stretching on a regular basis is important because you must continuously do stretches in order to get the benefits. If you stop stretching, you may find that you will lose the gains that you have made in your range of motion. Set aside at least three times per week for stretching.
4. Make a plan for stretching. Instead of trying to stretch every muscle group every time you stretch, you can focus only on the key areas of your body that need the most attention. Include more stretches for these areas in your routine. Additionally, you can also tailor your stretching routine to the type of sport or workout activity that you will be doing. Some studies have suggested that focusing your stretching routine on specific areas can be more beneficial than simply stretching all areas of your body before you workout.
Use Caution When Stretching
These tips assume that you are healthy and that your doctor has already recommended that you start regular stretching and exercise routines. However, if you have suffered injuries in the past or you currently suffer from a chronic condition, you should always use caution when stretching.
Some stretches can cause further damage to injured muscles and can actually cause your chronic condition to worsen. In addition, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t get injured if you overdo it with stretching. Too much of anything is generally bad for us. If you have any specific concerns about stretching, talk with a doctor before you start to ensure that you will be stretching safely.
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