6 great stretches for people with chronic back pain
Back pain has become a worldwide epidemic with thousands and thousands of sufferers every day... Far too often our backs give way on us and make even the simplest of movements difficult. This can be due to a variety of reasons, however this isn't about telling you off for your bad posture or you lifting habits. I'm sure you've heard it all before. But here you are; it's got to the point where you just can't get rid of that dull ache in your back. Hopefully these stretches will help to relieve some pain and make those day to day chores a little easier; or maybe even help you sleep better at night.
1 - Balsana or Childs Pose
This is a great one that anyone can do to a varying degree. The idea is you tuck your feet under your bum and sit on your feet then lay your body forwards so that your chest is as close to the ground as possible. Then stretch your arms above your head. Don't worry if you can't get your arms above your head, place them down to the sides of your body and breatheeeee into the stretch. Slowly fold further at the hips, even if you have to more your knees slightly wider, see if you can get your chest to touch the floor. Rest your forehead on the floor and enjoy the relaxing sensation...
2 - Cobra Pose or Back Extensions
It's always good to do opposites when carrying out exercise, and that definitely counts for stretching as well. Just completed Childs Pose? Lets swap sides and work the opposite shall we? As the name goes this position makes you look very much like a cobra. Lying on your front, slowly lift your upper body off of the floor with your hands, keeping a slight bend at the elbow. Open up at the chest and look forwards or up if you can. Push your hips into the floor and draw up through the chest. As with every stretch you do remember to breatheee… You can alternate between cobra and childs pose a few times if you feel this is helpful to you. Remember to only arch your back until you feel the stretch, it should not be painful!
3 - Cat and Cow Stretch
This one has an interesting name but it'll make sense when you try it. Can you think of any time you've seen a cat get up and stretch out it's back? So why don't you try it. All you do is get down onto all fours(hands and knees on the floor) starting with a flat back. Then you want to arch your back as much as possible, rounding it off and dropping your head at the same time. Then you can do the complete opposite, drop your back so your pushing your stomach as close to the floor as you can, pushing your hips and head up to the sky.
You may look a bit like a cow? Say moo if you'd like? Sadly no real benefits to this but it makes me laugh and mentally that is good for you, right, or am I just a bit weird? Repeat this 5 or 6 times slowly, concentrating on your breathing throughout. Cats can sleep anywhere, lets steal their ideas and help ourselves sleep a little better.
4 - Plow Stretch
So this one is a bit harder to do, and may result in a few collapses until you get it right, do make sure you have enough space around you, or that you're not going to hit anything too solid... Maybe ask someone to help you with this one if needed, no injuries please. This one is similar to your previous stretches where you arch your back around to get a full stretch across the entirety of your back, but also concentrates on the lower half, where pain is most common.
Lie on your back (preferably on a comfy surface like a rug or yoga mat) and rest your hands by your sides with your palms on the floor. Slowly lift your feet and knees up off of the floor and straighten your legs up to the sky. Use the weight of your legs to pull them closer towards your face, allowing your upper body to be pulled off of the floor. Continue (if you can) until your toes are on the floor above your head. For those of us who aren't that flexible (nothing wrong with that) start with your hands on the floor and bringing your knees to your chest and to start the back stretch. Slowly straighten your legs as you can, trying to keep your feet as close to your head as possible. When you feel you can use your hands and arms to push your bum off the floor and extend the stretch to get your feet above your head.
Take your time, take it slow, there are no competitions here, do what you can and feel the benefits.
5 - Piriformis or Hip Stretch
As we all know our back and core are the main parts of our body that work constantly and assist with almost every movement we make. Therefore it must make sense that it isn't just the muscles in our back that can cause back pain? Right? Everything is interconnected and therefore a tightness or overworked muscle somewhere else can lead to overcompensating back muscles, leading to pain. One of these muscles is called your Piriformis. It connects your sacrum (almost the bottom of your spine) to the top of your femur (hip bone). This is often an overworked muscle and is also forgotten when carrying out stretches. If this muscle is left overworked then it can cause pain in both the upper leg and lower back therefore is an important one to stretch out to help with any aches you have around that area.
Lying on your back stretch your arms out to the side at shoulder height and rest them on the ground. Lift one leg off of the floor and bend the knee. Lay the bent leg across your other leg, trying to get that knee to touch the ground. This will lift your hips off of the floor which is ok, just try to keep your shoulders flat. This will stretch your spine in a twist motion, different to the others you may have done so far. This is often a missed stretch. To further the stretch, whilst keeping your shoulders on the floor, see you if you can turn your head to face away from your knee. Can you do it? Even a little turn will extend the twist further up your spine and enhance the stretch. Oh and don't forget to breatheee.
6 - Thread the Needle Pose
Onto the upper back. Back pain is less common in the upper back however often people who have shoulder complaints will tend to feel the aches and pains down into their upper back. And as we've said before, everything is connected, if you can stretch out your upper back you'll feel the benefits in your entire body, not just there. Starting on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders, make sure your back is straight and not arched or dropping in the middle. Put the back of one of your hands onto the floor and slowly slide it across your body, between the alternate sides hand and knee. Slowly lower your shoulder until it is on the floor and your back is slightly twisted but still straight up to your hips. You should feel the stretch across the top of your back on the side of the shoulder that is on the floor. Breathe into the position and hold for around 30secs. Give your body a chance to relax before slowly bringing yourself back to all fours and repeating on the other side.
Hopefully this has given you some examples of different stretches you can do at home that can help to relieve back pain. Not only can they help reduce pain but they can also assist in better sleep and stress relief. Give them a go before you go to bed, help your body wind down and forget the worries of the day.