An important part of keeping a healthy back includes regular stretching. The muscles surrounding your spine need support! Stretching reduces tension, improves mobility, and reduces the risk of severe back pain.
Read below to learn more about spine-friendly stretches!
In order to stretch without causing any injuries, there’s a few pieces of advice you should follow.
Do not force your body into any uncomfortable positions, as this could place strain on your muscles. Stretching shouldn’t be overly painful! As you stretch, make sure to go slow. Stretching too fast could also cause muscle strain.
It’s recommended that you hold stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This allows your muscles to effectively lengthen themselves. Additionally, stretches should be repeated between 2 to 3 times daily.
Now that you know the ropes, we’ll dig into types of stretches below!
Neck Range of Motion Exercises
- Neck flexion/extension—Look up at the ceiling to bring your chin to chest motion. Keep your chin tucked close to your chest.
- Neck rotation—Turn your head to look over both shoulders. Keep your chin parallel to the floor. Try not to move shoulders forward
- Neck lateral flexion—Gently bring your ear to your shoulder. Do not raise your shoulders. You should feel a stretch along the side of your neck. Repeat on the opposite side.
These stretches should be performed together to increase all ranges of motion. Perform each directional stretch five times to complete a repetition. Three sets of five repetitions increase range motion and decrease tightness in the neck.
Neck & Shoulder Stretches
To perform these stretches, sit in a chair and use the opposite hand of the side of the neck you would like to stretch to gently grab your head and stretch to the opposite side. Then while holding your head, tilt your head toward the opposite shoulder and look down for 30 seconds and hold. Repeat stretch on the same side by continuing to hold your head and look up for another 30 seconds and hold. Repeat daily 3 times.
Example of Stretching Right Side of Neck: Use your left hand to grab the right side of head. Tilt your head to the left bringing the left ear to the left shoulder.
With the above demonstration, grip the bottom of the chair to prevent your shoulder from raising and then pull your head towards the opposite shoulder.
Chin Retraction Stretches
To perform these stretches, tuck your chin straight back (creating a double chin), hold for 30 seconds, and relax. To feel the stretch a patient should perform this stretch 10 times and repeat 3 times per day.
For added stretching, tuck your chin straight back, hold for 30 seconds, then look up towards the ceiling in the retracted position.
These stretches are part of the McKenzie Method protocol and help with disc problems in the neck as well as help create proper spinal curvature of the neck.
Cat-Cow Spine Flexibility Stretch
To perform, start on all fours with hands and knees on the floor. Inhale deeply, then look up and allow the belly to fill with air. Next, exhale and tuck your chin to your chest then arch your spine toward the ceiling. Repeat with every breath for 1 to 2 minutes. This allows movement in every part of the spine.
Bird-Dog Core Strengthening Exercise
To perform, start with hands and knees on the floor, make sure your shoulders are over the hands and hips over knees. Then tighten the abdominal muscles and extend one arm straight forward at shoulder level while lifting and extending the opposite leg straight from the hip. Hold this position for 15 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Perform these stretches on each side at least 5x.
Low Back Extension Exercises
To perform, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, cross your arms, and lean up against a wall with your back in a neutral position. Your forearms should be supporting you on the wall. Then, lean into the wall increasing the arch in your low back. And hold this arched position for approximately 10 seconds before returning to the neutral position. When holding the arched position, you should feel a stretch in both the front of your hips and low back. Repeat this movement 10 times and hold for 10 sec each time then repeat this activity a minimum of 3 times per day. This is also part of the McKenzie Method protocol which will help with disc problems in the low back.