7 Stretches For a Healthy Back
Your back is probably the single most important part of your body; it keeps you upright, and functioning, and it provides signals from your brain to your limbs that allow you to move. Protecting it during your day-to-day, and in your activities is vital. All that heavy breathing people do in the gym isn’t just for show, it’s to help brace their bodies (including their backs) so they can lift significant weights. But the culprit for a lot of regular “everyday” back pain comes from improper movement – activities that put strain on the low back – not to mention too much sitting!
When we’re sitting, we’re often tense at the computer, hunched over, staring at a screen for long periods of time. While this “hunched over” position isn’t necessarily bad in short bursts, it cannot be sustained over the long term without creating discomfort, and even damage. Much like holding a completely up-right position for too long can also cause pain.
If you have back pain and think you need a good stretch, here are my top back stretches for you to try at home:
- Supine Twist
Laying on your back, you’re going have both arms straight out to the side – pick both of your knees up towards your chest – keeping them together. You’re going to slowly drop your knees to one side – down to the floor, if you can. Repeat for the other side.
I love this stretch because it does two great things: if you do it slowly enough (you should!), you can massage the bottom of your pelvis & stretch your upper back – once your knees are fully on the floor.
- Half Books
This is a t-spine (that’s thoracic spine) stretch / mobility drill. Ideally, you’re going to need a foam roller, but a pillow will also do the job. Laying on your right side, your left leg is going to come up to 90 degrees on the roller, while your right leg stays straight and on the ground. Place your right arm out to the side, bringing your left arm on top. Then, slowly let your left arm reach across your body and lower it towards the floor. Bring your left arm back towards your right arm, over your chest and repeat. Theoretically, with each repetition you should be able to get your left arm flat on the floor without your left leg coming off the foam roller. Go ahead, give it a try!
- Cat / Cow
This is a classic yoga stretch and one I love recommending to my clients! Start on your hands & knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips (remember to keep your shins & knees about “hip-width” apart). Then, while you inhale, you are going to drop your belly toward the floor – sink your palms into the ground – and then slowly look up towards the sky (the “cow”). After holding for 10 to 30 seconds, draw your belly towards your spine and round your back upwards and stretch your neck, looking down at the ground for the opposite stretch (the “cat”). This inhale-exhale / cat-cow sequence can be repeated 5 to 20 times.
- Happy Baby
Sounds funny – but a fun little stretch. Bringing both your knees tight up to your chest, as if to hug your knees, you’re going to slowly roll back and forth on the bottom of your pelvis. Doing this on a slightly harder surface (or a thinner mat) can be a great self-massage technique.
- Thread the Needle
Although this is technically meant to be a shoulder / shoulder blade stretch, it can also stretch your back too. Coming on to all fours, slightly push your glutes down towards your heels (I know the picture doesn’t show this, but I find I get a better stretch if I do). Place one hand directly out in front of you (above your head) while the opposite arm comes underneath your chest – this will cause a small twist in the middle of your back. Slowly place your head on the ground and rest there. Switch sides and repeat.
- Child’s Pose
Another classic yoga position! I love this one because it’s not only peaceful but is a great shoulder and back stretch. Starting on all fours, push your glutes all the way back to rest on your heels, keeping your arms straight out in front of you. Let your forehead rest on the ground (if you can). Relax there anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute.
Being super careful with this one – cobra can be a great low back stretch, but it can be overdone. Starting on your stomach, legs straight and feet out flat (about hip-width apart), you’re going to bring your palms near your body to be directly under your shoulders or a bit lower. When you’re ready, push into the floor to prepare to bring your upper torso “upright” while, at the same time, you use your back muscles to bring your upper torso upright towards the sky. Your upper torso does not have to be fully upright (like in the image) – some people can only get a few inches off the floor. If you feel a stretch, then you’re good to go. Do not lock your elbows! Try for a nice back arc. Do not clench your glutes. Try to keep your hips on the floor (unlike the image!). Hold anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. Slowly lower yourself back down to the floor and relax before getting up.
Find the joy, be kind, and we’ll chat soon.
If you’ve got questions – E-mail me!
Find my email here: https://cordessa.ca/