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Stretch Your Way to Back Pain Relief with 3 Tricks

Published January 8, 2018
| Written By SpineNation Editorial Staff   | Medically Reviewed by Bridgit Kin-Charlton, CPT
Tags:  Stretching

Could your lack of movement contribute to your back pain symptoms? What can you do to minimize that shooting pain in your back?

Stretch 1, 2, 3, 4...

Growing up, do you remember hearing from your family, friends, or physical education teacher to always stretch before you do any strenuous activity or workout? You may have blazed right through the suggestion. Working out can already be a chore in itself for some, so adding another activity can be a difficult task to initiate. Could your lack of movement contribute to your back pain symptoms? What can you do to minimize that shooting pain in your back?

You don't have to go digging too far because you already have the answer. 

Certified Fitness Trainer and Certified Nutrition Specialist, Obi Obadike explained, “Warming up is essential — it is the cornerstone to staying limber and flexible!”

“Warm-ups prime your nervous system; prepare your muscles; increases the delivery of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your muscles; and ready your mind for exercise and performance. Cold muscles are more susceptible to injury.”

Here's to Understanding

It may be hard to understand how moving around can actually help your back condition when you are in enough pain already by simply standing still. That's why it's important to retain a certified physical therapist to walk you through the correct movements for your specific back pain diagnosis. Maybe you want to be able to move more, but don't know the technique in order to find that relief.

Julie Fritz, a professor of physical therapy and associate dean for research in the College of Health at the University of Utah advised, “Many patients when they arrive at a doctor's office complaining of back pain just need to hear that nothing is permanently wrong and the pain will most likely go away with time. But some patients will want more help. That's when physical therapy can play its most important role.”

Physical therapy, according to The Cleveland Clinic Foundation is “the science of blending physiology with exercises and applying these principles to the body when an injury is sustained.” When used for various back and spine conditions, physical therapy targets the architecture that reinforces your spine and joints including muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

The main goal of physical therapy is to educate patients on the mathematics of stretching and strengthening, which in turn, aids in managing your chronic back pain — eventually accelerating your tissue healing — leading to recovery.

Take Action

The best way to stretch is to warm up for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Once you're ready to stretch, hold the stretch for 5 seconds, release for 5 seconds, and then execute again, holding for an additional 10-30 seconds. Repeat two or three times with the approval of your medical team.

Once your medical team gives you the green light, there are techniques in place to modify your standard sitting position to diminish your back pain symptoms. Here's what you can do:

Maintain good posture throughout your entire day. If you start to feel sore or stiff, alter your posture position and modify your body mechanics. Your body will physically warn you by using pain as a red flag, meaning that your body's mechanics are improperly aligned causing intense back pain. More times than not, you may realize what your body is telling you. When you don't respond to that pain and continue on, the inflammatory process begins leaving you in a vicious cycle of unanswered questions. The best route to avoid this is learning to listen to your body and react accordingly.

Sit up straight. It may be easier said than done because you may be slouching without even knowing it. Simply remember that sitting or bending too frequently over long periods of time, it's better for your back, in the long run, to remain as erect as possible.

Practicing proper posture at the desk.Caption: When sitting in your work desk chair or even your living room couch, consider arching your back 5 to 10 times if you continue to feel stiff. Repeat two to three times daily.

Also, try bending and moving slowly in the opposite direction, this will balance the stresses out and relieve any muscle tension.

Health and Prevention Tips provided by The American Physical Therapy Association explained, “A physical therapist can make sure you are prescribed the appropriate exercises for your condition and can modify the exercise as necessary.”

Physical therapy can be as simple as a few exercises targeted to relieve the area of pain on your body. And there are movements you can do in the comfort of your bedroom or house.

Stretching exercises to do at home:

  1. Shoulder rolls backward x 10
  2. Shoulder blade squeeze x 10
  3. Chin in x 10
  4. Chin in and slowly stretch your head back x 10
  5. Head turn over shoulders x 10 each direction
  6. Standing back bend stretch x 10

Performing a basic stretch to relieve back pain.Caption: If you are a chronic back pain sufferer and you are already stretching and exercising while still living with that pain, you may be performing an inaccurate movement that is acerbating your symptoms. 

The University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics provided insight on why that may be happening, “In that case, what your back pain is telling you is that your exercise program is still not sufficient to control your body’s muscles and current weight requirements."

“We recommend you increase your exercise regimen even more for another 6-12 weeks and see if your new exercise program allows your muscles to function with less pain. If you still have pain then, you’ll likely need to do even more exercise. Your muscles only understand recent activity.”

Considering scheduling an appointment with a certified physical therapist or physician to learn the science behind stretching and alleviating your back pain conditions.

Hold 5, 6, 7, 8...

Updated: July 23, 2019

Information provided within this article is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for medical advice. Those seeking specific medical advice should consult his or her doctor or surgeon. If you need to consult with a specialist, you may be able find a health care provider in our Specialist Finder. SpineNation does not endorse treatments, procedures, products or physicians.

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Contributors and Experts

Bridgit is the owner of Bdefined. She's certified as a Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, Level I USA Weightlifting Coach, Level I Precision Nutrition Coach, and a Functional Aging.