Stretching is something many people avoid and few put into practice. In fact, to most, stretching is reserved for either immediately before or after exercising but not necessarily a part of a daily routine regardless of exercise.
The truth is, stretching is actually very effective in alleviating pain and stiffness that naturally occurs in the body, like back pain, for example, which is possibly the most common form of chronic pain people endure. On top of all that, it’s most effective when it’s a regular practice and more specifically, when it’s done first thing each morning. Your body has been mostly stationary overnight and therefore your joints and muscles are most likely to be stiff at this point. So a good morning stretch is not only the best way to make sure the daily grind doesn’t interrupt your routine, it’s also the best time to get the blood flowing through your body and loosen everything up. The same can also be said for making a point to stretch before bed, as it alleviates all that tension in your body and prepares you for even better sleep.
“Stretching of the back and legs can help maintain or improve movement for everyday functions. For example, being limber will help you lift objects off the floor or put on shoes without increased stress to the back,” says Fei Jiang, PT, DPT, OCS, at Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, California. “Additionally, physical activity [like stretching] can help increase back resilience, so that one can perform more activities without increased pain.”
So if you’re ready and willing to incorporate stretching into your daily routine, here are five stretches that can help you tackle all-too-common chronic lower back pain:
This is probably one of the most commonly-used stretches for anybody. Our hamstrings get tight when sitting for extended periods and they also get tight and sore due when we do things like sprints or hitting the squat rack. And when those hamstrings are tight, our backs are likely to get stiff and sore soon after as well, caused by the lower back being pulled and bent forward. Having flexible hamstrings helps avoid this.
Child’s pose is very relaxing while also stretching the spine for improved mobility. It’s meant for you to reach out until a mild stretch is felt and then held.
Cat and Camel
Cat and camel is a great pose for strengthening the spine and overall core. Strengthening the core can be key in alleviating back pain as pain is often a direct result of not using the abdomen to support the spine in the first place.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Just as the hamstrings get stiff and sore, so do the fronts of our hips. Also similar is the effect tight hip flexors have on our lower back. When standing, the lower back is pulled forward and handed extra strain. Increased mobility in the hips means carrying what would otherwise be an unnecessary load on the spine.
Trunk Rotation Stretch
This is a great stretch because it increases mobility around the spine. It also works to relax the muscles on the side of the trunk as you are stretching across your torso.