Physiotherapist Upper Back Stretches Relieve Pain & Stiffness - Part 1
Stretching Exercises For Back Pain – Upper And Lower
What could be worse than back pain that does not allow a person to stand, sit, walk or even sleep in peace?
Surgeries and medicines are temporary solutions, but a proper exercise regime is the only thing that can keep it away in the long run. An exercise regime must be prepared as strengthening the muscles and nerves gives your body a boost & helps you to stay fit. In today’s fast-paced and stress riddled world, exercises have been modified & altered to best suit people & their needs.
Back Pain: Who Is At Risk?
The following factors pose a higher risk for back pain:
- Age > 35 years
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Anxiety, stress, and depression
- Overstrain caused by exercise or physical activity
- Medical conditions like fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis
Symptoms Of Back Pain
If your back pain is accompanied by any of these symptoms, consult your doctor at once:
• Weight loss
• Elevated temperature
• Visible inflammation in the back
• Incontinence (urinary and/or fecal)
• Backache reaching the legs
• Numbness around the genitals, anus, and hips
Types Of Back Pain
Before you pick any of these exercises for back pain, it is important to identify the type of pain you are experiencing. Back pain may be:
- Acute – Lasts for three to six months. Its onset is sudden. Its main cause is tissue damage.
- Chronic Pain – Lasts for longer than six months and may be caused by injury or some other medical condition.
- Neuropathic Pain Or Nerve Pain – Nerves in the back continue to perceive pain, even in the absence of tissue damage or even after healing of a back injury.
The back or, to be more exact the spine, can roughly be divided into the upper, middle, and lower back. In the next section, we will explore some effective exercises for all three portions of the back.
1. Bat Wing
Bat Wing is the best exercise for upper back pain reduction. Chest presses and push-ups help in strengthening the back muscles and arms. But this exercise helps in achieving the target by focusing the muscle contraction in the affected area to strengthen and avoid pain. It is similar to row exercise, but with a multiplying range of movements to make sure that your rhomboids are pressurized.
2. Pec Stretch
A Pec stretch exercise is a yoga movement where one needs to apply strength on the arm’s back side focusing on the back muscle. Take your position across a wall placing your right hand up on the wall in a manner that your elbow is on same lines as the shoulder. Gradually, move your body downwards using your hand as a support to avoid falling. Place your opposite hand near you ribs. While doing any exercise, it is important to inhale and exhale in order to ensure proper blood circulation.
3. Downward Dog At The Wall
This exercise has proven to be extremely beneficial for many out there suffering from back aches. All you have to do is just bend downwards facing towards the floor & try holding this position. If your calves start paining, slightly bend your knees. Try to stay in this position for 10 seconds & then release.
4. Thoracic Extension
There are a number of ways to do this exercise. One can just lie down and face upwards with head up straight or do the same activity with a foam roller. You can even sit on a chair clasping your hands behind the head, and then stretch your head upwards facing the ceiling. Repeat this activity 10 times a day.
5. Arm Slide
While doing Arm Slide exercise, stand against a wall with a straight posture. Lift your arms overhead while keeping your shoulder & arms touching the wall. Do not allow your shoulders to shrug towards your ears, your low back to arch, or your arms to lift off the wall. Return to the starting position and repeat for 10 repetitions. This help in strengthening the upper back core muscles, thus avoiding bad fixes.
6. Shoulder Roll
The shoulder roll is an exercise one can perform anytime & anywhere. One needs to focus on making larger circles to smaller with circular shoulder movements. This helps in making muscles more flexible & supple.
7. Scapular Squeeze
Stretching is not as easy as it appears to be. Scapular stretching is an exercise which requires patience & effort. To do this exercise, one needs to keep his/her elbows by the side, then squeeze the shoulder blades together & hold for 5-10 seconds. Relax & repeat this exercise 10 times a day.
8. Rowing Exercises
Rowing exercise not only helps in alleviating pain, but also helps in strengthening shoulder muscles. With each row, one takes the weight of the boat plank on the muscle with a slight jerk. Rowing is a great exercise as it gives you a break from the traditional cardio exercises like running.
9. Mid Trap Exercise
Mid trap is an ace form of exercise to strengthen shoulder muscles. It helps the performer to rest the front side of the body on the floor with support & focus on the back. It is an easy and effective exercise.
Push-ups are effective exercises with added benefits. Push ups are much more than just losing abdominal fat. They can even help in curing upper back pain. 10 push-ups a day can keep you fit & keep the pain away.
11. Modified Push-Ups
Lie on the stomach on a yoga mat with your hands placed close to the head. Now lift your torso off the floor using your hands, without lifting the hips. Stretch as much as possible and repeat 5-8 times.
12. Spread Eagle
The spread eagle is a fun exercise for alleviating lower back pain. The fun part is that it includes the pelvic thrust. For this, one has to face the sky, lying on the back, with knees bent and palms behind the head. Then he/she needs to lift his/her pelvis upwards and bring it down after few counts. The stomach must be sucked in to get better results. Keep breathing in and out.
13. Knee To Chest
The knee to chest exercise is quite like a stretching game to loosen up, yet it is very effective. As the muscle is pulled back with the knee, it affects the lower back, bringing relief from the intense pain. Clasping your hands around one knee, pull it up; count to five and repeat the same with your other leg. One can attain the benefits of this exercise with 10 repetitions every day.
14. Cat And Camel
This exercise helps you to utilize the technique that cats use to stretch normally. Form the animal position on all fours and then stretch your neck straight, gazing at the floor. Slowly bend forward towards the floor with your back raised towards the ceiling just like a hump that a camel has. Contract your muscles and expand while breathing in and out. While performing this exercise, one might feel the gush of blood towards the muscle area.
15. Crossover Reverse Lunge
Lunges are good, but they put a lot of pressure on your thighs, back, and abs. However, the crossover reverse lunge focuses on the lower back. Take the first lunge, then bend and turn in the opposite direction of the leg. As you put pressure on the back while crossing over, the lower portion feels the pressure and stretch.
16. Ball Hug
Funny to watch but fun to perform, the ball hug is an exercise which requires one to stretch as much as possible. Use the gym ball as a prop and keep it between your legs. Hug the ball and try to enfold your arms in a manner that your fingers touch. The more you stretch, the more the pressure builds up.
17. Hyper Extensions With Bench
Extensions help in healing lower back pain. The Bench one is where you may need the assistance of someone to hold on to your legs while you extend. You need to lie down on your stomach on the bench, bend downwards and let your back stretch as much as possible.
18. Bridge With Pelvic Thrust
This exercise helps you acquire flexibility and also gives your lower back and buttocks a good shape. The exercise requires one to lie down with knees pulled up and facing upwards. Raise your waist upwards towards the ceiling to make an incline. Hold the position for 10 seconds and then lower the back. It’s just like a slow pelvic thrust.
19. Good Morning
A seated good morning is a form of workout specifically for the lower back as it uses the weight on the upper back to help in stretching the muscles.
Wish to fly? Then this exercise is perfect for you. It helps in alleviating your lower back pain efficiently. The focus of the exercise is the contraction of the back muscles.
21. Standing Pelvic Tilt
It’s similar to a dance form but in slow motion; no leg work is involved in this exercise. Only the knee plays an important role. Standing straight, perform some pelvic thrusts by only bending your knees. Do it slowly and steadily, concentrating on the lower back.
22. Pectoralis Stretch
Position yourself in an open doorway and stretch your arms so that they touch the sides of the door, slightly above your head level. Lean forward without moving the arms till you feel a stretch. Hold for some time and repeat five to eight times.
23. Scapular Squeeze
Sit or stand with your arms at the sides. Now squeeze the shoulder blades together as far as you can. Hold and repeat 8-10 times.
24. Thoracic Extension
One among the best exercises to reduce back pain is this thoracic extension. Sit with your back straight and arms behind your head. Arch backwards as far as possible as if you’re looking at the ceiling. Repeat at least five times.
25. Mid-trap Exercise
Lie on your stomach on the floor/mat with a cushion/towel under the chest to elevate it slightly. Stretch the arms out with your thumbs pointing at the ceiling. Now lift your arms towards the ceiling till you feel a stretch in the shoulder blades. Do this 10-15 times.
26. Arm Lifts
While sitting on a straight chair, lift your right arm vertically above your head. Stretch it as far as you can go and hold for a few seconds. Bring it down and repeat with the left arm.
27. Seated Bending
Sit on a straight chair with your feet flat on the floor. Slowly bend to touch your toes. It is not important to actually touch the toes; the aim here is to arch the back as far as is comfortable for you. Sit up straight and repeat 5-8 times.
28. Back Lift
Use a yoga mat to lie flat on your stomach with the arms at the side, palms facing the ceiling. Next, lift your head, neck and back off the mat as far as you can. Hold the position for about three seconds and come back slowly. Repeat 8-10 times.
29. Back Arch
Position yourself on the floor on all fours. Now bend and clasp the hands together with the elbows touching the floor. In this position, slowly arch the back and lower your head. Hold the arch for about 10 seconds, return and repeat around five times. One of the perfect exercises for back pain relief!
30. The Stick Hold
Take a long stick or even a curtain rod. Place it across the shoulders behind your neck. Drape your arms over the bar and rotate the back left and right. Make slow movements and go as far as you can.
31. The Chair Bend
Stand against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart and about a foot away from the wall. Slowly lower yourself till your thighs are parallel to the floor. Do this by sliding the back across the wall. Hold the ‘chair position’ for 5-8 seconds and repeat about 10 times.
32. Modified Crunches
In the list of exercises to get rid of back pain, the modified crunches cannot be ignored! Lie on your back on a yoga mat with your knees slightly bent and hands under the ribs to support the back. Rather than lifting your back, tighten the abdominal muscles as if squeezing the ribs towards the back. Hold the position for 5-7 seconds and relax. Repeat 10-12 times.
33. Ankle Stretches
Lie on your back or sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Stretch the ankles as much as you can and hold for about 5 seconds. Repeat as many times as you can. This exercise can be done many times during the day.
34. Heel Lifts
Stand facing a wall or the back of a chair with your feet slightly apart. Keep the hands on the wall or hold the chair for support. Now lift yourself up till you are on your tiptoes. Hold this position for about 8-10 seconds and return. Repeat as many times as possible, any number of times during the day.
35. Leg Raises
Here is another lying exercise for back pain! Lie on the back on a mat with the left leg straight and right leg bent at the knee. Next, lift your left leg off the mat to about 10 inches using the abdominal muscles to support the leg’s weight. This can be difficult at first. Hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat with the right leg.
36. Piriformis Stretch
Lie on your back on a mat or hard mattress with both your knees bent. Cross one leg over the other, supporting them with the hands behind the knee. In this crossed position, bring the legs towards the chest till you feel a stretch in the hips. Hold for at least 15 seconds and relax. Repeat this five times.
37. Piriformis Seated Stretch
The piriformis muscle is a muscle found in the lower limb. It is often the reason behind acute sciatica, or radiating leg pain. This stretch is designed to help lengthen the piriformis over time.
How To Do:
- Begin by sitting with your back straight. Then, first cross your left leg gently over your right leg and tuck the latter in, towards your buttocks.
- Now place your right arm on your left knee and slowly stretch. Maintain a straight back and keep your chest lifted. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds. Repeat thrice on each side.
38. Swiss Ball Exercise
Lie on your abdomen on a Swiss Ball, taking care not to arch the back. Keep the back straight and support the body with your hands flat on the floor. Now slowly raise the arms and legs in sequence as far as possible. Do three to five sets for all four limbs.
39. Pelvic Tilts
Lie on your back with the knees bent. Try to flatten the spine so that the space between the floor and the small of the back reduces. Hold the tilt as much as is comfortable for you. If lying is uncomfortable, this exercise can be done standing against a wall.
40. Wall Squats
Stand with your back against a wall, making sure that the head, shoulders and back all touch the wall. Place the feet about a foot away from the wall and straighten the lower back towards the wall. Next, bend your knees slowly till they reach an almost 90-degree angle. Hold the position and slide back slowly. Repeat at least five times.
41. Arm And Leg Raises
Position yourself on the floor on all fours and with a straight spine. Lift the right arm and left leg till they are parallel to the floor. Hold the stretch for about five seconds and repeat with the left arm and right leg. In case you cannot maintain your balance, do this exercise by lifting only one limb at a time.
42. Downward Facing Stretch
Stand straight on the floor. Bend and place your palms on the floor. Slowly lower the torso and head towards the floor. Hold this gentle stretch for about 10 seconds and bring the torso upwards. Repeat five to eight times.
43. Neck Stretch
This stretch is to be performed while standing, and it comprises three movements.
- Stand with your feet flat on the floor and slowly tilt your head forward, bringing your chin to your chest. The stretch should be felt at the back of the neck.
- Slowly move your head towards the left such that the chin aligns with the left shoulder. The stretch should be felt at the back of the neck. Do the same with the right side.
- Now, slowly tilt your head towards the left side such that the left ear is over the left shoulder. The stretch should be felt on the right side of the neck. Repeat to the right.
44. Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is helpful for gastric troubles as well.
- Lie down flat on your back on the floor with your knees bent.
- Hold one leg behind the thigh and gently move it up to your chest.
- The stretch should be felt in the thighs.
- Pull a little till the stretch is felt.
- Hold. Release and repeat with the other leg.
45. Hips Stretch
This stretch is helpful for lower back pain.
- Lie down flat on your back.
- Cross your left leg over the right one and gently pull the right knee towards the chest till a stretch is felt in the buttocks region.
- Repeat with the other leg.
46. Back Extension
- This move also relieves back pain.•Lie flat on your belly.
- Prop up on your elbows, stretching your back.
- Slowly straighten your elbows and further extend your back till a stretch is felt in the back.
- Hold. Release and repeat.
47. Knee Rolls
Knee Rolls exercise is useful to keep the spine mobile. You should perform it slowly.
- Lie flat on your back with your arms stretched out at either side.
- Keep your knees bent, but together.
- Gradually roll your knees towards one side, followed by the pelvis.
- Move as far as it is comfortable.
- Hold. Return to the starting position.
- Repeat with the other side.
48. Cobra Stretch
This is the best exercise to stretch the lower back and tighten your abdominal muscles. It helps improve flexibility and banishes pain.
How To Do:
- Start off by lying flat on your stomach with both your legs extended outwards.
- Rest your forearms and elbows level on the ground with the palms of your hands planted on either side of your head.
- Gently, push your body up in such a way that your body mass is resting on your forearms. Remember to keep your hips on the ground.
- On reaching a comfy position that gently stretches both your lower back and abdominal muscles, hold the position for about 15 seconds.
- Gradually return to the starting position and repeat the same at least 3 to 5 times. Try straightening your arms if you have more flexibility in your lower back.
Top 10 Back Pain Reasons
1. Injury Or Sprain
The strange fact about sprain or injury of the spinal cord is that you may not feel the wound immediately. It may remain in a suppressed condition for a long time and start showing its existence suddenly without any specific cause. If you were unaware of the old injury, you might feel surprised how the pain was caused. However, old injuries and sprains are found to be most the common cause of back pain.
2. Herniated Disks
Herniated disks are spine disorders that are caused due to the rupture of the spine. The common term for herniated disk is slip disk, which pinches any particular nerve in the spinal cord. Unlike sprain in the spine, one can feel this type of pain immediately. Back pain due to herniated disks is often diagnosed through X-ray or MRI.
Fracture in the spine may be a leading as well as a prominent cause of back pain. The effect of the fracture may be similar when minor, but it may generate acute pain when the fracture is serious. Patients with a fracture in the spine often become chronic patients of back pain even after surgery or treatment.
Osteoarthritis is a middle age bone problem, mainly noticed among female patients. The condition is similar to degenerative disc disorder or intervertebral disc degeneration, which happens when the discs in the spinal cord start to weaken with age.
During pregnancy, back pain is a common experience. Due to excessive pressure on the spine, back pain is common with many pregnant women at the advanced stage of pregnancy.
Another top factor for backache, it may cause pain in the ligaments, muscles and tendons all over the body. The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is fatigue. Several types of treatments are available for such type of pain.
If you are obese, it is most likely that you would suffer from back pain. The increasing amount of body fat will create pressure on the spine. The only remedy for this type of back pain is weight loss.
8. Anxiety and stress
Modern day life is wrapped with anxiety and stress. Stress is present in all corners of life from the household to the office. Moreover, irregular lifestyles, improper diet, lack of rest, all necessarily give birth to more than a handful of disorders including back pain. It occurs when the nerves inside the spine do not get the supply of an adequate amount of oxygen due to excessive stress. The effects on your mind will also cause a setback to your spine and will make you suffer from back pain.
9. Improper Sleeping Posture
It is strange but true that sometimes, odd sleeping postures can be one of the causes of back pain. Sleeping on your stomach is harmful to the spine, as it puts much pressure on your back. Fortunately, such pains are temporary in nature. However, it may turn to permanent if you do not change your sleeping posture.
10. Prolonged Time Spent In Sitting Position
Are you in the habit of spending too much time sitting in the same position? Many of us spend more than half the day in front of the computers at the office or at home. This may be extremely harmful to the health of your spine. You should take breaks for at least 10 minutes every hour and move around.
A Word of Caution
Since the spine is a highly sensitive area of the body, it is recommended that you practice these precautions:
- Always ask your doctor before beginning an exercise routine for the back.
- Do not exercise immediately after using an ice pack.
- Stop exercising if it causes acute pain that lasts for more than two hours.
- Stop the exercise if it causes nausea, numbness, and breathlessness.
- During pregnancy, discontinue any exercise if it causes any discomfort, always putting the safety of the baby above your pain.
So here are 25 easy exercises for back pain relief anyone can do at home. They require almost no specialized equipment or expensive gym memberships. Of course, you can always opt for pricier choices, but then, the results would be the same. These exercises can be done with minimal supervision and in the comfort of your home. Some of them can even be done at the workplace during breaks.
If you are into yoga, you can also find some very effective asanas for back pain relief. However, these must be done only under experienced teachers as yoga done incorrectly will do more harm than good. Remember not to overstrain yourself, especially not your back. The spine is what holds you up, so be careful with it. In addition to exercising, you can also do these things to avoid further distress to your already aching back:
- Use your knees to bend while lifting a weight off the ground, don’t bend your back.•Don’t stand or sit in the same position and posture for long. Shift your weight on both legs in an alternating manner.
- Avoid sleeping on your back or your abdomen; they both put extra pressure on the spine. The best position to sleep is on the side with a pillow between the knees.
- Avoid carrying a heavy bag (laptop bag, purse, etc.) on one shoulder. Get a bag that can be carried across the back.
- Use a firm mattress, and not one that is too soft and downy. The firm mattress supports the back.•Try to maintain a schedule where you cycle, walk, swim or jog regularly.
- Set limits for yourself. Don’t over strain your back. Explain to the people living and working with you that there are some things that you won’t be able to do because of your back pain.
Here’s hoping that one or some of these tips and exercises help you control and reduce your back pain. Remember: when in pain, discontinue these back pain exercises and visit your doctor.
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