Summit physical therapist Joe Herdzina, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, says these stretches take only minutes and can have big results on your back health.
Can five minutes really make a difference to the way your back feels each day? It can if you spend that time on a few simple back stretches. Try it for a month, and see if you agree.
The first step is to assess your activity during the day in order to understand what kind of stretching your back needs. “Some people have jobs where they stand up and move around all day. Many people have jobs that involve a lot of sitting,” Summit physical therapist Joe Herdzina, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, said. “You want to work away from what you spend most of the day doing.”
If you’re sitting a lot, you should focus on extension stretches, and if you’re standing a lot, you should focus on flexion stretches. The goal is to achieve balance in your overall posture.
Step 1: Flex first
“Always flex first before you extend. It makes the extension more comfortable,” Joe said. A great flexion exercise is a yoga pose called child’s pose. To do it, sit with your legs tucked under your body. Then lean forward, resting your forehead on the floor and extending your arms over your head along the floor.
Step 2: Then extend
To extend your back, lie on your stomach and push up onto your elbows. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. “These flexion and extension exercises flow nicely into each other, so it makes a good, balanced set of stretches,” Joe said.
Step 3: Stretch out the hips
Stretching out the hips, including the gluteal muscles, can also help reduce back pain. “The more we can stretch the hips, the more we can take the pressure off the back,” Joe said.
Sit down, then cross one leg over the other. Then, grab one knee and pull gently toward the opposite shoulder.
Step 4: Stretch out the mid back
A cat/cow stretch — in which you alternate between arching your back (like a cat) and rounding your back (like a cow) — gets your thoracic spine involved as well, contributing to a more balanced stretching regimen.
You can do all four of these in about five minutes. Joe recommends doing these exercises two to three times a day. “Morning and evening for sure, and if you’re a static worker who doesn’t move around a lot, the middle of the day is great too. Performing these stretches on a daily basis will help you to feel a lot better,” he said.
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