Most people probably don’t spend much time thinking about their back health until something goes wrong. But that can be a mistake. Some of the aches and pains your back sustains can be minimized by some simple, but effective back stretch techniques. The more regularly you take advantage of preserving your back’s health, the better chance you have of avoiding debilitating injury.
We all know we’re supposed to “lift with your legs, not our back.” This is job training 101 for any occupation that involves physical activity. But there’s quite a bit more you can do to limber up that super important part of your body. The best thing about it is they don’t require special equipment. Only a bit of consistency.
Your back is a complex network of many parts. Bones and joints, nerves, connective tissues, muscles and spinal segments are all parts of what we call our back. Back stretch techniques help to keep these many parts working in harmony. Daily stress and activity can take a toll on your back’s many parts. Certain back stretch techniques can better prepare your back to take on movements required by everyday life.
Back Stretches on Hands and Knees
One thing to keep in mind while performing back stretches is to not push your back to an uncomfortable level. You can benefit your back merely by repeating simple stretches, rather than pushing yourself to discomfort. For stretches that take place on your hands and knees, it might be helpful to place a towel on the floor to protect your knees. This way you can pay better attention to how the parts of your back respond to its movement.
One simple stretch takes place in the prone position, which simply means resting on your forearms with your belly to the floor. By slowly scooping your chest toward the ceiling while squeezing your shoulder blades you can give your upper and mid back a nice stretch. Another stretch you may want to try is referred to as the “wag tail.” This stretch involves slowly rotating your hips so that your feet swing back and forth. This is a great exercise for limbering the lower parts of your back.
A couple more stretches from the hands and knees position can benefit the Quadruped section of your back. One stretch focuses on what can be referred to as the “Sidebed” of your back. You can exercise your “sidebed” by moving your hands to 45 degree angle one side, first to one side and then the other before holding for 30-60 seconds. You can repeat this about ten times.
Another Quadruped stretch benefits your “Torso Rotation.” This stretch involves shifting one forearm so it’s below your chest with your other hand on your back, then rotating your body toward your elbow and looking at the ceiling. Again, it’’s helpful to move in and out of this stretch about ten times before holding for 30-60 seconds.
Belly Up Back Stretches
There are several effective back stretches you can do from the simple position of lying on your back. The knee-to-chest stretch begins by lying on your back with your knees bent toward the ceiling. Both hands are used to pull one knee until it presses against your chest. The abs are then tightened and the spine is pressed to the floor; this position is held for five seconds. After returning to the starting position, the same motion is performed on the other leg. After returning to the beginning position once again, both knees are pulled toward the chest before the abs are tightened and spine held to the floor. This is a good cycle to repeat several times, once in the morning and once at night.
A lot of times “belly-up” back stretches are designed to improve the mobility of your lower back over time:
“Lower back rotation stretch”- Lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor, keep your shoulders on the floor while rotating your knees to one side. Hold this for 5-10 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat this on the opposite side before performing the entire cycle two or three more times.
“Lower back flexibility” – Lie on your back once again with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your ab muscles so your stomach pulls away from your waistband. Hold this position for 5 seconds before relaxing and “pulling” your bellybutton from the floor. It’s wise when first doing this exercise to start with about five rotations of this stretch before working up to as many as 30.
These are only some of the stretches that can be a huge benefit to your back over time. As you can see, there’s nothing particularly fancy or complicated about them. They certainly don’t require expensive equipment, but they do require mindfulness and are even more effective with consistency. If you have been wondering how to prolong the health of your back, I strongly recommend trying some of these stretches. You might be surprised how much more limber you feel.