Why is lower back stretching important?
While we all know that regular stretching is Merrill Edge review and other brokers important for our overall health, back stretches are often an overlooked component of our routine. For people with back pain, stretching exercises are especially important. They can help reduce back pain and may even help prevent future episodes of pain or injury.
Not only will regular stretching help loosen the muscles and get rid of existing back pain, but it can also strengthen the back. This lowers your chances of dealing with back pain in the future.
Stretching is also an important way to prepare the muscles for vigorous activities such as aerobics or playing a sport. That is why stretching exercises should be done before and after a workout. This is to prevent muscle strain or soreness and avoid injuries.
ACE Lists Top Ten Reasons to Stretch
ACE, America’s Authority on Fitness, shares the following top ten reasons why every one should take time to stretch.
- Decreases muscle stiffness and increases range of motion. Stretching helps improve your range of motion which may also slow the degeneration of the joints.
- May reduce your risk of injury. A flexible muscle is less likely to become injured from a slightly extensive movement. By increasing the range of motion in a particular joint through stretching, you may decrease the resistance on your muscles during various activities.
- Helps relieve post-exercise aches and pains. After a hard workout, stretching the muscles will keep them loose and lessen a shortening and tightening effect that can lead to post-workout aches and pains.
- Improves posture. Stretching the muscles of the lower back, shoulders and chest will help keep your back in better alignment and improve your posture.
- Helps reduce or manage stress. Well stretched muscles hold less tension and therefore, leave you feeling less stressed.
- Reduces muscular tension and enhances muscular relaxation. Stretching allows the muscles to relax. Habitually tense muscles tend to cut off their own circulation resulting in a lack of oxygen and essential nutrients.
- Improves mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance. Since a flexible joint requires less energy to move through a wider range of motion, a flexible body improves overall performance by creating more energy-efficient movements.
- Prepares the body for the stress of exercise. Stretching prior to exercise allows the muscles to loosen up and become resistant to the impact they are about to undergo.
- Promotes circulation. Stretching increases blood supply to the muscles and joints which allow for greater nutrient transportation and improves the circulation of blood through the entire body.
- Decreases the risk of low-back pain. Flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexors and muscles attached to the pelvis relieves stress on the lumbar spine which in turn reduces the risk of low-back pain.
Stretches to DO:
1. Low-back rotation stretches
Technique: Sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, twist your upper body so your shoulders rotate to one side. You can use the chair for support, holding on to get a deep muscle stretch. Go only as far as you can comfortably. You will feel the pull from your lower back up to the middle of your back. “You may experience a painless crack from your spine, but that’s normal; it’s just the joints opening up,” says Larry Feldman, a chiropractor and the owner of The Performance Health Centre in Toronto. Hold for 20 seconds or six breaths, and return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
2. Seated spinal twist
Technique: The key, says Jay Blahnik, world-renowned fitness educator and author of Full-Body Flexibility, is to lengthen the spine rather than forcing the body into a position. Begin by sitting tall, extending both legs in front of you. Bend right knee and cross it over the left thigh, then bend left knee (you can keep your left leg straight if necessary). Take left elbow and place it on the outside of the right knee, then place right hand on the floor behind you, looking over your right shoulder. Hold and breathe deeply for 15 to 30 seconds, and release. Switch sides and repeat. “Try and remember to ‘lift’ through your back and not simply twist your spine,” says Blahnik.
3. Spinal Trunk Rotation Stretches
Technique: Lie on your back and bring knees up toward your chest so your body is positioned as if you’re sitting in a chair. Your knees and hips should be bent at 90-degree angles. Now, place the palms of your hands flat on the floor. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale as you count down from four and bring your knees down to the right side. Lift your left hip up but keep your shoulders touching the floor. “Always take it slow. If you do it fast, you defeat the purpose of the stretch.” Try to keep your knees together and tip them over as far as you can, while keeping your hands on the floor. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Return to start and repeat, dropping knees to the left this time. Do this stretch daily, once on each side.
Lift your left hip up but keep your shoulders touching the floor. “Always take it slow. If you do it fast, you defeat the purpose of the stretch.” Try to keep your knees together and tip them over as far as you can, while keeping your hands on the floor. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Return to start and repeat, dropping knees to the left this time. Do this stretch daily, once on each side.
4. Single or Double Knees to Chest Back Stretches
For your safety, start doing the knees-to-chest stretch with one leg only. If after a few days, you feel no pain, then advance to lifting both lefts
Technique: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. This is known as the supine position. Gently raise one bent knee up enough so you can grasp your lower leg with both hands. Interlace your fingers just under the knee. However, if you are doing the two-legged version, make sure to bring one leg up before the other. This is because taking both up at the same time takes a lot of abdominal strength, starting with one and then quickly following with the other is likely safer, especially for vulnerable backs.
Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times with each leg. Do the stretch about 10 to 15 times, one or two times per day or as needed. Tip: Make sure to keep your back relaxed during the stretch.
5. Cat Camel
Technique: On your hands and knees, slowly alternate between arching and rounding your back so that all three sections of your spine’lumbar (lower), thoracic (middle) and cervical (upper)’extend together and then flex together. Do this slowly and gently, and don’t force it. One cycle will take three to four seconds. Repeat stretch five or six times. For optimal results, re position your knees and hands as necessary throughout the cat and camel back exercise so your knees are always below your hips and your hands are always below your shoulders. Keep your head aligned with your spine at all times. Each exercise motion should originate from your lower back. Do not bounce or jerk your body at any point during the exercise, as this can lead to injury.
To prevent injury, perform the cat and camel exercise slowly and gently. Nerve force yourself to stretch to the point of pain.
6. Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretches
Technique: Kneel on a mat and bring your right knee up so the bottom of your foot is on the floor and extend your left leg out behind you so the top of your foot is on the floor. Place your right hand on your right leg to help provide stability and place your left hand on your right hip to prevent bending at the waist.
Exhale, bend your left knee and lean forward. Bend your knee until you feel your thigh come into contact with the back of your calf. Use your left foot to support your body weight while keeping your back straight. Tighten your abdominal muscles to keep your back straight throughout the exercise. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, breathing comfortably. You will feel the stretch in your upper right thigh. Return to starting position and try with other leg.
7. Tail Wags
Technique: Start on hands and knees, with your knees together and past your hips. Lift your feet off of the ground and swing them to the right and then to the left. Keep your back flat throughout the movement, so that the motion is primarily a side-bending motion.
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