Roughly 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, and for most of them the pain will resolve on its own within a few weeks. For millions of people, however, back pain becomes chronic. In fact, back pain is the second most frequently reported medical complaint.
Board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Thomas Jones II and our team at The Spine Institute of Southeast Texas understand the impact of back pain on daily life. Simple activities that most take for granted can be a struggle. It can interfere with many areas of your life, from work to social activities. Seeking medical evaluation is the first step to getting relief.
Treatment for chronic back pain depends on the cause. Dr. Jones formulates a treatment plan for you after a comprehensive evaluation. Your treatments may involve steroid injections, physical therapy, pain-relieving medication, or surgical approaches.
Common causes of back pain include:
- A herniated disc (bulging disc)
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
- Degenerative disc disease (arthritis of the spine)
- Sciatica (problems with the sciatic nerve)
Stretching exercises for back pain can help keep your spine healthy and provide relief. While these stretches are safe for most people, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor first.
Here are five pain-relieving stretching exercises for your back.
1. Back flexion
This exercise is performed while lying on your back on a comfortable, flat surface. To perform the stretch, pull both of your knees into your chest and bend your head forward. Hold the stretch gently for up to 30 seconds and repeat 2-5 times. This exercise stretches the neck and lower back.
2. Cat-camel back stretch
This stretch begins on all fours. To perform this exercise, bend your back towards the ceiling and hold for 5 seconds before arching your back towards the ground. This gentle, spine-friendly exercise stretches all three sections of the spine (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar).
3. Prone extension
To perform this stretch, start by lying on your stomach. Use your forearms to prop yourself up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold the position for about 20 seconds before resting on the mat. Repeat 5 times. This exercise stretches the lower back.
4. Levator scapula stretch
This stretch relieves tension in the neck and helps to improve neck pain. To perform this stretch put one arm up and over your shoulder to stabilize the scapula. Bend your head down toward the opposite knee and take your other hand and put it behind your head and gently pull the head forward to stretch. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times.
5. Chin-to-chest stretch
This simple stretch alleviates tightness and pain in the cervical spine (neck). From a sitting or standing position tilt your head forward so that your chin touches your chest. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Tips for stretching your spine
To stretch your spine effectively and reduce the chances of injury, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Avoid forcing your body into painful positions
- Listen to your body and stop if a stretch feels painful
- Move into the stretch slowly
- Wear comfortable clothing