Best Back Stretches and Top Tips to Keep Your Back Healthy
Welcome to our back stretching article – today we are looking at back pain and how you manage it better.
Now, you don’t have to wait until you have back pain to start doing something about it!
Preventing a problem is always much better than trying to fix or cure one. So let’s be proactive about your back care and stop it from happening in the first place.
The blog today will look at the best tips to incorporate in to your life to reduce back pain, but also the best stretches for the lower back.
Lower back pain is an extremely common problem in today’s society with the widely accepted statistic from sources such as the NHS stating that 80% of all adults will experience some form of symptoms in their lifetime. This statistic is commonly repeated throughout the western world and in developed societies, especially where seated work is a given.
There are many causes and reasons why your back could become painful and some forms of back pain are more serious than others, but for the most part, back pain is typically non serious and can be easily managed in a short timeframe. If you have any doubt about your back pain and it doesn’t improve with simple measures or you have any concerning symptoms – you should see your GP or physiotherapist who can provide accurate diagnosis and reassurance.
Evolutionary theories also state that due to our rapid progression from previously being a 4 limbed walking animal with monkeys/apes, before progression to upright walking – the spine has not had as much time to adapt to supporting a lot of our weight and everyday tasks.
Common problems that can cause back pain to develop can include:
- Overuse injuries (doing too much of the same thing at work/sport)
- Poor sitting habits (posture and time)
- Lack of physical activity (physical deconditioning)
- Complex Medical Conditions
When the lower back becomes sore and painful, it is a collection of tissues which become symptomatic including bones, discs, ligaments, tendons and muscles.
All of these tissues heal at different rates and need the treatments and exercises in assisting them back to full recovery. This is a key reason why back pain can go on for an extended period of time as all of your moving parts will be going through a different rate of healing.
Top Tips for Preventing Back Pain
Here are the top 5 tips for helping to reduce your risk of getting lower back pain:
Keeping your back loose and free is extremely important for reducing the chances of lower back pain developing, if your back has limited range of movement in its bending, leaning back (extension) twisting or side bending functions then it means its capability is reducing. Once your back tightness or stiffens up this can lead to its tissues becoming sore and pain developing.
A simple solution for this is to perform gentle back stretches in a morning when you wake up. This can include gentle hugging of the knees, twisting your knees from side to side and gentle arching of your back before you get up for the day. This helps to promote more movement in the back and a healthy foundation for your daily activity. Foam rollers and myofascial release balls can be added to perform your own sports massage which can help to loosen tissues and keep them relaxed.
In the 2nd part of the blog we have detailed some of our favourite exercises.
Soft Tissue Massage
Regular body maintenance treatments are also ideal for keeping your lower back and soft tissues healthy. There are many different types of massage to choose from, but sports massage is an effective soft tissue treatment which can help keep the muscles of the lower back in good condition. Soft tissue overlays the spine and supports it – it has a huge influence on your lower back. If our backs become overly tight and restricted this can place too much pressure on other tissues in the back, causing pain.
Manipulation of the soft tissue to reduce tightness, improve flexibility and increase blood flow to the area can help to maintain your lower backs condition. For best results and to get the most out of massage sessions, planning them into your routine on a regular basis such as once per month can be an effective way to manage your lower back health.
Don’t Sit for too Long
Our bodies were meant to move! It’s a shame that most jobs and lifestyles these days involve prolonged sitting times – averaging 8 hours. If we sit for too long this can have multiple effects on the body such as reducing our spine strength, limiting its flexibility and increasing the chances of it becoming unhealthy.
If you work in a sitting role – stand up every 30 minutes to gently stretch or walk and at your breaks take time out of the day to walk. If you find that you are sitting a lot at home – try and be more active with household tasks or take regular breaks from sitting – your back will thank you!
Get Better Sleep
Sleep is the most powerful recovery tool on the market today – however possibly the most underappreciated and used. Our lifestyles are very busy and stressful and can lead to poor amounts of time in bed and early starts.
Sleep is where your recovery and repair are performed – aiming for between 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night will allow your back to rest and repair more effectively. If you aren’t sleeping well look at meditation, ear plugs and eye masks to help improve your bedtime routine and achieve a more restful sleep.
Strength & Resistance Training
In the current evidence – strength training and weightlifting is the best type of exercise for reducing back pain. When the lower back becomes painful it often acquires a weakness – when you strengthen the back up again, the pain goes! So, it makes sense to stop the chances of pain starting that you incorporate some regular resistive exercise.
Exercises such as deadlifting, squatting and other weight training are a great way to promote a stronger more resilient back. It’s not all weights however – things like yoga and Pilates have a good strengthening effect on the back with positive results!
Top 5 Back Pain Stretches
This exercise helps to stretch all of the spine from the upper to the lower. It is commonly used as part of yoga flows and is a staple for everyday care for your back.
- With your hands and knees on the ground, sink 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.
Prone Extension / Half Press-up
Unlike the first exercise – this works extension of the lower back. A position we can commonly neglect due to poor posture and seated jobs.
- Lie on your stomach
- Place your hands in front of you – level with your shoulders
- Gently press your chest away from the floor
- Keep your hips and legs on the floor
- Hold for 5-10 seconds or whatever is comfortable
This stretch works your piriformis muscle, which is found deep in your buttocks. Stretching this muscle relieves pain and tightness in your buttocks and lower back.
- Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your right ankle at the base of your left thigh or vice versa
- Then, place your hands behind your left thigh and pull up towards your chest until you feel a stretch you are comfortable with
- Hold this position for 20 seconds – increase this as you are able.
Sitting Spine Twist
This is the classic exercise for anyone who does lots of driving or sitting down. Don’t let your spine stiffen up – twist it regularly to mobilise it! This works your full body from the top to the bottom!
- Sit on the edge of a chair with both legs extended out in front.
- Bend your right knee and place your foot to the outside of your left thigh (cross legs)
- Bend your left leg, placing your foot near your right thigh.
- Lift your arms up with your palms facing each other.
- Starting at the bottom of your spine, rotate to the right side.
- Place your right hand behind you for support.
- Place your left arm around your right leg as though you’re hugging it, or bring your upper arm to the outside of your thigh.
- You can do small repetitions of 3-5 seconds or hold for longer periods – the key is to do this regularly.
Camel / Cat or Cat-cow Stretch (this one has a few names!)
The name of this stretch refers to the shapes you are going to form with your back. Animals typically stretch often, especially cats.
They tend to stretch on waking and after being sat for long periods – follow the lead of the cat and get stretching!
- Start in an all fours position hands underneath shoulders, knees underneath hips.
- Press into your hands and feet as you inhale to look up, allowing your belly to fill with oxygen
- Breath out, tucking your chin into your chest and arching your spine toward the ceiling.
- Continue this pattern of movement, moving with each breath. Repeatedly arching your back upwards and then flattening downwards.
- Do this for 1 to 2 minutes or a timeframe that suits you.
To conclude we have provided 10 really important points in the blog today that will help you to manage your back pain.
As mentioned in the introduction – prevention is always better than a cure. Don’t allow your body to get to the point of breakdown before doing something about it.
When you become injured this undoubtedly takes a toll on your physical and mental health but also your finances can be impacted.
By being proactive about your back care regime it will give you a healthier future and save you money. Cost of managing back pain can be high when factoring in pain medication, treatment and other healthcare costs. Not to mention loss of earnings if you are off work.
The things we have suggested today do not have to occupy a lot of your time – just remember every day to do something for your health and to prevent back pain.
If this blog has helped you and you think it could help someone you know – please share it with them.