Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well! The month of August has meant hot, humid days for the Lowcountry. August has also meant a return to school and work for many of us. As summer vacation comes to an end, kids don heavy backpacks and adults spend consecutive hours typing at their desks. To my ears, this sounds like a whole lot of back strain! Today, I’m going to share a few stretches with you which can help relieve some of the tension you may be experiencing. Perform these stretches as a family or throughout your workday to keep limber and pain-free!
My patients’ most common complaint is lower back pain. This can include stiffness, tenderness, or even mild burning. The causes for lower back pain can vary. Common causes include poor posture, sports injuries (involving excessive twisting of the torso), lifting heavy objects and an unexpected fall. Of course, there could also be an underlying issue, such as a lumbar herniated disc or joint dysfunction. Due to this, your best option for assuaging lower back pain long term is to seek regular chiropractic care. However, if you need relief sooner rather than later, these stretches can be a handy asset in your pain-relief tool box.
These stretches are simple-yet-effective and suited for everyone. You can perform these at home, at work, indoors, outdoors—wherever and whenever you feel the need! It’s recommended you perform these stretches daily for the best results. One study found the effects of a particular stretch were particularly present in the fifteen seconds following the stretch and noticeable for the subsequent twenty four hours. Gains in flexibility diminish in the following days, however. Therefore, to build on your progress and continue training your muscles to be more flexible, you should stretch at least two to three times a week.
Stretching frequently can decrease the potential for injury significantly. As well, as we age and become more inflexible, simple day-to-day tasks can become more difficult. Our ability to balance and maintain an upright posture becomes more difficult when our muscles are tight and stiff, which could lead to a fall. This is the last thing anyone wants! This is why it’s important to invest a small amount of time, at least two to three times per week, as a preventative measure against these potentialities.
The first stretch is relatively easy and simple. This stretch is best when performed in the morning, before you’ve even left your bed. If you suffer from a stiff back and require several minutes each morning to slowly straighten up to full upright posture after waking, this stretch is for you! Begin by lying on your back with your head on a pillow. Place both of your feet flat on the bed, thus bringing your knees into a bent position. Then, using both hands, you’ll grip your knee and gently pull your knee toward your chest. Hold this position for ten to thirty seconds. Please ensure your resting leg is bent, as having your resting leg extended places undue stress on your lower back. That’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do! Repeat this process with your other knee. Then, pull both knees into your chest and hold. Finally, repeat this process three or four times.
The lumbar spine has a natural curve. Most injuries occur because of an impingement (or stress) present at the back of a disc, near the base of the spine. This stress is often caused by overextending backwards and twisting simultaneously. By performing the stretch above, you’re performing flexion(bending forward), which is the opposite motion. This allows trapped fluids to imbibe and lengthens the muscles surrounding the base of the spine.
The next stretch is perfect for desk workers or people who spend hours sitting everyday. You’ll want to perform this stretch at least once every hour during work, as continual sitting tightens the muscles of the posterior chain (including the erector muscles, the gluteus maximus, the hamstrings, and the calves).
Begin in an upright seated position, with your knees bent. From this position, you’ll slowly bend forward. Your aim is to touch your chest to your upper thighs and keep your arms relaxed. Take a deep breath. Breathe out. Spend about ten seconds in this position before moving your chest to hover over one knee. Then, after ten seconds, repeat this on the other side. This is a static stretch, therefore refrain from bouncing. If you aren’t able to go down all the way or experience pain, stop in whatever version of this position feels comfortable. Repeat this entire process three or four times.
The third stretch is a wonderful stretch to warm up your body before a workout or strenuous activity. Loose, flexible muscles bear loads much more elegantly than stiff, tight muscles. If you’re preparing to go on a run, lift weights, or carry boxes, you may want to set aside a few minutes to complete this stretch before and after.
You can begin in a squat position. You’ll want to lean a portion of your weight forward, onto your hands (positioned in front of your center of gravity), and a portion of your weight back (down through the hips). You should feel this stretch in your hip flexors and along the lower back, but shouldn’t experience any pain. Allow yourself to relax into this position for ten to fifteen seconds. Then, similar to the last stretch, bend toward one of your knees to stretch the opposite side of your back. Repeat on the opposite side. Then, complete this set two to three more times.
The final stretch is called the child’s pose and is a popular yoga stretch. If you’re not familiar with this stretch already, we’ll go through the correct steps together! First, you’ll begin on your hands and knees, in a tabletop position. A table top position entails your shoulders being stacked over your wrists and your knees underneath your hips (though slightly widened). From this position, you’ll drive your weight back through your hips, seeking to touch your rear to the backs of your ankles. Simultaneously, you’ll lean forward with both arms extended. This stretch elongates the back muscles. Try to reach forward and stop if you experience any discomfort.
Next, you’ll retract one arm by pulling in your elbow and extend the other arm. This will stretch one side of your back. Hold this position for ten to fifteen seconds. Repeat on the other side. Repeat this set on either side.
These are the essential stretches for lower back pain. A few related stretches, targeted toward specific muscle groups and types of pain are as follows.
With persistence and time, I know these stretches will help! As stated above, these stretches are not a replacement for chiropractic care. Only chiropractic care can resolve the subluxations which cause persistent pain, tightness, and nerve damage. However, these stretches (when performed regularly and with correct form) can vastly improve your quality of life and help you feel more mobile in your body! As always, I’m Dr. Bob and I’ve got your back covered!
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