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Stretching Exercises for the Back

written by: Donna Clarke • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 7/15/2010

Looking for some ways to ease back stress, improve your back strength, or relieve the pain of back spasm? Try some stretching exercises for the back. Simple and easy to follow, these tried and true exercises are sure to add range of motion, strength, and relief to that aching back.

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    Benefits of Stretching the Back

    Stretching creates greater range of mobility, agility, and strength. It also releases stress. Stretching the back is no exception. This is because the shorter, or tighter the muscles are, the easier it is for them to become injured. Tighter back muscles can lead to muscle pain, spasm, and even poor spinal alignment and health. Moreover, tight or shortened muscles of the upper leg, hip, and even posterior muscles can lead to back pain or possible injury. By utilizing the many stretching exercises for the back, the risk of pain, injury or spasm is greatly reduced.

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    Stretch 1: Rotation Stretch

    This truly versatile stretch can be utilized virtually anywhere; at home, work, on a subway, in a restaurant, or any other location where you may feel tense, or need to stretch. It is safe and easy to perform. All you need is a chair.

    In a seated position, with your back straight but not over-arched, simply turn your shoulders to one side, thus rotating your body. Begin by slowly turning or rotating at the waist to the right so that your left shoulder is over your right hip. Place your left hand on your right thigh. Gently hold the position for 10 seconds or longer, not exceeding 60 seconds. Rest. Reverse this stretch with the right shoulder rotating to a position over the left thigh, placing the right hand on the left thigh. Hold then rest. Do not overstretch. Be sure to rotate only to a point of tightness, not beyond.

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    Stretch 2: Pelvic Tilt

    If you have a floor, you can easily perform this stretch.

    While lying on the floor with knees bent, slowly exhale and gently push your lower back toward the floor. Do not over-push. This is a slow and gentle motion. If you find yourself pushing at or with your feet, you are over-pushing. Repeat this stretch three to five times in the beginning, increasing slowly over time, to your comfort level. Do not perform this stretch more than 15 times in one stretching session. This stretch is outstanding for opening up the lower back. The key to this stretch is to remember to take it nice and slowly.

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    Stretch 3: Knee to Chest

    While you are on the floor, resting from the previous exercise, why not try some knee to chest stretches? They are simple to perform, and help to not only open up and stretch your lower back, but also your upper thigh muscles as well.

    Lie on the floor with your knees slightly bent. Bring you left leg toward you, bending at the knee. Grasp your leg behind your knee and gently pull to the point of tightness. Hold for 5 to 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat. Repeat this stretch 5 to 15 times each depending on flexibility level. Remember to perform this stretch slowly as it is designed to open up the muscles of the back allowing for stress release and increased range of motion.

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    Stretch 4: Shoulder Roll

    Shoulder rolls are an excellent way of relieving tension and stress in the neck and upper spine, both major focal points of stress. It also helps to stretch the shoulders and arms providing a general feeling of tension relief. Shoulder rolls can be performed virtually anywhere and need no equipment.

    Standing or sitting straight, but without hyper extending your spine, slowly roll both shoulders forward, up and back, eventually returning to the original position of rest. Roll your shoulders as far as possible, to the point of tightness. Repeat the shoulder roll 5 to 15 times, or alternate rolling first the right shoulder then the left. Do not rush this stretch as this is is an exercise meant to ease stress and lengthen muscles, thereby increasing range of motion.

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    Rest, Relax and Stretch

    With all the hustle and bustle of modern day, it is all too easy to feel life's stresses in our spine. Relieving those stresses is as easy as a few simple stretching exercises for the back. Convenient to perform and simple to do, these stretches will have you feeling stronger, with a greater range of motion, as well as de-stressed in no time. As with any exercise program, please check with your medical professional, should you have any questions or concerns.

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    References

    MayoClinic: Stretching: Focus on Flexibility - www.mayoclinic.com/health

    Big Back Pain: Back Exercises - www.bigbackpain.com