Along with muscle strength and cardiovascular health, flexibility is one of the key blocks of physical fitness. This is especially true for areas of the body like your core, which is involved in every kind of movement you can imagine. Even if you work at a desk for a living, your back is continually engaged to support your posture for hours on end.
That’s why performing stretches to loosen your back each morning is a wise habit. Taking quick breaks to stretch throughout the day is also helpful in keeping your muscles, joints, and connective tissues limber. However, the morning, in particular, is a significant time when your body is transitioning from lying dormant for eight hours to getting ready for a day of movement.
The Regions of Your Back
There are four general parts of your back that stretching can benefit. The cervical spine refers to your neck. The thoracic spine is your upper back which is level with your chest. The sacral region is the base of your back, between your L-5 joint and your tailbone. All these parts of your back are important, but it’s your lower back that gives people the most difficulty.
The lower back, or lumbar region, is the most troublesome area of the back because it bears the most weight. The lumbar region also experiences more movement than the other sections of the back. Back pain is often the result of damage to the large muscles which are responsible for much of your upper body’s movement. In severe cases, people may seek surgery to repair the tissue in their lower back. Thankfully, doing daily stretches can go a long way in not only giving temporary relief of occasional pain but also preventing costly and life-altering surgery.
Stretches to Loosen Up Your Back Each Morning
It is often recommended to engage in simple stretches while you are still in bed. This can serve the dual purpose of waking up your body’s muscles as well as preparing your back for a day of movement. It can be an effective way to avoid injury since early morning stiffness has the potential to lead to twists and tears in your back tissue. However, it should be noted that these simple stretches are not an answer to intense pain. In fact, if you experience recurring back pain after waking up, some doctors believe stretching your back out can actually cause damage.
On to the stretches. Upon waking, a gentle knee-to-chest stretch can loosen the muscle tissue in your back when alternated between legs. You may also want to try a stretch where your knees are bent 90 degrees before rotating your trunk to the right and slowly shifting back to the left. It’s important to hold this for 30 seconds so your body can settle into the stretch. Then turning over on your stomach, it can be a good idea to massage the muscular areas of your lower thighs and lower back. This gives you direct access to specific areas that may feel tight.
There are also some simple yet effective back stretches you can do while on your tummy. You can start by placing a pillow underneath your chest and allowing your neck and spine to elongate naturally. Next, you want to make your body straight like a pencil before slowly elongating your spine. This is accomplished by imagining you are pulling your ribs away from your pelvis.
Just a couple more stretches which are borrowed from yoga before you’re ready to get off that bed. By placing your forearms beneath your chest and gently lifting yourself up you can mimic the classic Cobra pose. This is a spine lengthening stretch that can protect against a spine suffering excess curvature. Then there is the Child’s Pose which rests your haunches on your ankles while your upper body becomes a face-down arrow. This is my favorite stretch as it engages large muscle groups as well as stretches your back.
Once you’ve finished using your bed as a soft and spacious stretching area, you can continue your routine by using your bed as a prop. A “Seated Spinal Twist” can be performed by sitting on the bed then reaching one hand behind you before turning toward that hand before switching sides. By turning toward the wall behind you, you will also be giving your neck a good stretch.
It’s never too early to think about the health of your back. Some back issues are too complicated to be combated with simple daily stretches, but most people can greatly boost the odds of avoiding painful injury with proper habits. The best thing you can do for your back is to be mindful of its daily use. The next best thing might be to practice stretches to loosen up your back each morning. It may sound like a big commitment, but investment in your back’s health will be rewarded tenfold.