Regularly stretching the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the spine is an important element of all back exercise programs. Stretches designed to alleviate neck and back pain are usually recommended by doctors, physical therapists or spine specialists.
The benefits of stretching include:
- Reducing tension in muscles supporting the spine. Tension in these muscles can worsen pain from any number of back pain conditions.
- Improving range of motion and overall mobility.
- Reducing the risk of disability caused by back pain.
Below are some stretches you can use to relieve pain in the upper, lower and middle parts of your back.
Lower back pain is a fairly common health issue and can be caused by many things. In some cases, it might be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as kidney stones or fibromyalgia. Other times, it’s simply a side effect of a sedentary lifestyle or repetitive motions.
Here are some stretching exercises you can perform to help reduce lower back pain:
This exercise is a traditional yoga pose which stretches the gluteus maximus, hamstrings and spinal extensors. It helps relieve pain and tension in the spine, neck and even shoulders.
It also loosens up tight lower back muscles, promoting flexibility and blood circulation along the spine, giving a relaxing effect on your body.
To do child’s pose stretch, follow these steps:
- With your hands and knees on the ground, sink your body back through your hips to rest them on your heels.
- Hinge at your hips as you fold forward, walking your hands out in front of you.
- Rest your belly on your thighs.
- Extend your arms in front of or alongside your body with your palms facing up.
- Focus on breathing deeply and relaxing any areas of tension or tightness.
- Hold this pose for up to one minute.
You can do this pose several times during your stretching routine. Feel free to do it in between each stretch.
This stretch relaxes your hips, thighs and glutes while promoting overall relaxation.
To do a knee-to-chest stretch, follow these steps:
- Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your left knee bent or extend it straight out along the floor.
- Draw your right knee into your chest, clasping your hands behind your thigh or at the top of your shinbone.
- Lengthen your spine all the way down to your tailbone and avoid lifting your hips.
- Breathe deeply, releasing any tension.
- Hold this pose for one to three minutes.
- Repeat with the other leg.
Place a cushion under your head for extra padding. You can also wrap a towel around your leg if it’s hard for your arms to reach.
If hunching over a desk all day has made your mid-back unhappy, relief is just a few stretches away.
Movements that elongate the spine, stretch the front and back of the body and build muscle to improve your posture are like medicine to soothe the aches.
Some of these stretches can be done anywhere. You might even take short breaks during the day to stretch the back and dissolve tension as it builds. Simply move away from your desk and stretch away!
These gentle spinal movements are an excellent way to warm the body up for more difficult postures, while releasing stiffness in the mid-back.
- Start on all fours with your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Feel free to rest your knees on a blanket if you feel discomfort.
- Spread your fingers wide and distribute weight evenly throughout your hand. Press your palms and fingertips into the ground to avoid dumping weight into the wrist.
- Inhale, gently sending your pelvis upward and your heart forward, dipping your belly down and your face up.
- Exhale, and arch your back like a cat, rounding your spine, tucking in your pelvis and letting your head hang loose.
- Repeat five to seven times. You should feel your spine begin to open, allowing the stretch to deepen as you warm up.
You can hold this pose for as long as you like. We recommend doing this for at least three minutes. Incorporating this stretch into your daily routine will help increase back flexibility, reduce tension and improve your posture.
This variation uses props you can find at home, but feel free to use yoga blocks if you have them.
- Roll up a blanket, towel, or yoga mat. Place the roll on the floor. If using a yoga mat, you may want to roll only part of it, depending on your back flexibility and the mat’s thickness. A bigger roll requires more flexibility, while a smaller one offers a more gentle release.
- Lie on the roll so it rests against the bottom of your shoulder blades, close to the middle of your back. If you’d like to use yoga blocks for a deeper version of this backbend, place one block under your shoulders and a second under your head. Elevate your head as much as necessary so that your neck feels supported.
- Relax into the posture, placing a second blanket under your head as a pillow if necessary. Keep your breath long and deep.
Mid-back exercises can also help you with upper back pain. However, you may also experience pain in some parts of your upper body, that is the shoulders and the neck, which may also contribute to upper back pain. Doing neck and shoulder stretches may help you with relieving pain in these areas.
Despite the name, shoulder rolls can also be great at relieving tension at the upper back area.
To perform the shoulder roll:
- Stand or sit up straight, keeping the arms down by the sides.
- Gently roll the shoulders forward, lifting them up and down in a continuous circular motion. Try to keep the arms relaxed.
- Do this for around 30 seconds, then repeat it in the opposite direction.
The neck is attached to the trapezius muscles and the cervical spine. Doing neck exercises can also help condition and strengthen the upper back.
To perform the neck flexion:
- Sit or stand up straight.
- Gently drop the chin to the chest, making sure to stop if there is any pain or discomfort.
- Roll the head so that the right ear is down toward the right shoulder. Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Keeping the chin down, slowly rotate your head to the back, continuing until the left ear is near the left shoulder. Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Continue this gentle rotation of the head from shoulder to shoulder several times. Pause and deepen the stretch whenever there is muscle tension.
Got a question, or anything I can help with? My name is Steve Stretton, and I’m the owner and manager at Gelpacks.com. You can drop me a line here. Good luck!