Importance of Flexibility
Physical activity affects our endurance, our strength, our balance, and our ability to stretch and move our body. Oftentimes our exercise program focuses on getting stronger, but maintaining flexibility may have more impact on our daily aches and pains than just “body building.” We get mobility from muscles, ligaments, and tendons that move our bones.
Back pain is caused by pain receptors innervating nerves to our spinal cord. It is often muscle-based pain. Sometimes we infer muscle pain to the bones linked to those muscles by our ligaments and tendons. These pain signals may arise from tissues that are rigid or are stressed by unusual stretching. Our muscles are normally balanced. A muscle imbalance may result in pain. A simple test involves sitting on a chair, crossing your legs, and bending the back forward. When back pain is noted, there is a muscle component to the pain. If crossing the legs in reverse relieves the pain, there is muscle asymmetry, i.e., shortness of muscles on the lesser pain side. Disease history, bone deterioration, surgery altering our soft tissues or our spine, etc. may have brought on atrophy when muscle use was reduced or eliminated related to that history or surgery. It is wise to seek your physician’s advice before commencing an exercise program, even if intending only to do back stretches.
A Simple Back Stretching Strategy
- Start by focusing on your neck and upper back. Take a deep breath and shrug those shoulders, raising them up as high as you can, and holding the shrug for half a minute. Relax and do the shrug several more times.
- Turn your attention to your upper back. Grab your elbow and stretch it toward the opposite side of your chest without rotating your body. Hold that stretch for half a minute and relax. Trade elbows and repeat for the opposite side.
- Move your focus to your mid back. Take a towel and double it up to two or three thicknesses making a roll. Grab a pillow and place it on the floor and situate the towel next to the pillow to form a “T.” Lie down with your knees bent, supporting your head with the pillow and aligning the roll with your spine. Take some deep breaths and balance on that towel roll for five minutes.
- Begin focusing on your lower back. Continue lying on your back but chuck the towel. Pull your knees to your chest and curl your head forward. You have made yourself into a ball and are stretching your back. Hold the position for half a minute and relax in a normal supine position. Repeat several times.
- Focus on hips and structures supporting your back. Get on all fours. Lift your leg as you extend it and bring it back to your starting position. Trade legs and do it again. Repeat that stretch ten times or so. Breath through your mouth.
We recommend scheduling times to do your stretches a few days a week. It is important for your overall fitness goal.