Those of us living in Western society are pretty well aware by now that we live in a mostly sedentary culture. Many of us are required to sit down at work for at least eight hours a day, five days per week. We tend to not think about how this affects our spines until the physical pain sets in. A chiropractor Lehi Utah pointed out that “Lower back pain is the worldwide leading cause of disability.”
What are we supposed to do when it’s seemingly impossible to give up certain aspects of the sedentary lifestyle? As many yoga instructors, chiropractors, and physical therapists will tell you, stretch! Stretching your back and building strength through your back and core can help eradicate back pain.
If you are a back pain sufferer, here are some of the best back stretches to help relieve pain throughout your spine. You can do these at home, outside, or even at work if you have a little bit of floor space available.
If you suffer from lower back pain, try doing some push-ups. Push-ups help build your core and lengthen and straighten your back.
Start off on your hands and knees. Get your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart in front of you and keep your body in a nice straight line. You can place your feet together or just about shoulder-width apart – whichever feels more comfortable to you. If you need more stability, it is a good idea to keep your feet about shoulder-width apart.
If you have not done a push-up in a while or are really in pain, try clenching your buttcheeks together and tightening up your abs. This will activate your core and allow you to do a more accurate (and less painstaking) push-up.
Keep your head up, looking in front of you, and make sure your knees are lifted. You are now at the top of a push-up. Make sure you steadily lower yourself with your elbows at about a 90-degree angle. Lower your chest to the floor, pause for a moment, then come back up. Repeat this a few times and see if you can get to 10 push-ups.
The Happy Baby Pose
The happy baby pose (otherwise known as Ananda Balasana in Sanskrit) is great for opening up your hips and releasing pressure from your lower back. This is a Level 1 pose, so it generally isn’t too difficult to do.
For this pose, you need to start off on your back. Exhale and draw your knees to your belly.
From here, inhale and grip the sides of your feet, opening your knees up wider than your torso. Bring your knees back toward your armpits. Finally, get your shins perpendicular to the floor by having your ankles positioned above your knees. Push your feet into your hands to create some resistance. You can push as hard or light as feels right to you.
The cat-cow stretch is a pairing of the cat pose (Marjaryasana) and the cow pose (Bitilasana) that increases flexibility in the spine and helps alleviate lower back pain. Cat-cow opens up the chest, relieves physical and emotional stress by encouraging slow and methodical breathing, and interacts with the adrenal glands and kidneys.
To do this stretch, you need to start off on your hands and knees with your back completely flat. This is what is referred to as a tabletop position. First, move into the cow pose by dropping your belly toward the mat as you inhale. Lift your chin and gaze up toward the ceiling. Hold this pose for a moment.
Next, move into cat pose by exhaling and rounding your back up toward the ceiling. Let the crown of your head point toward the floor, but don’t tuck your chin into your chest. Inhale and return to cow pose, then exhale and move back into cat pose. Repeat this stretch as many times as you need. As you keep doing cat-cow, you should start to feel some pressure getting released from your hips and lower back.
Knee-to-chest stretches are also helpful for anyone suffering from lower back pain or injuries. You can do a single-leg stretch to start off with in order to reduce tension in your spine, glutes, and hamstrings.
Start off on your back, on the floor. You can use your hands to guide your knee up to your chest if you are struggling to move your knee. Draw your knee in toward your chest, remembering to breathe as you go. Hold this pose for a few moments, then gently release that leg back down toward the floor and repeat this stretch with your other knee. Rotate between each knee as many times as you need until you start to feel a stretch through your glutes and hamstrings. You should also feel a gentle stretch throughout your lower back.
Finally, we arrive at child’s pose (Balasana). Many yoga instructors love to have their students do this pose before getting into more advanced stretches since it is easy to do and engages the entirety of the spine (including the neck) and the arms as well. It is also a great resting pose to do between two more advanced poses or stretches.
In order to do child’s pose, kneel down onto the floor. Make sure your big toes are touching one another as you sit on top of your heels. Keep your knees hip-width apart and lay your torso down between your knees. Ensure that your tailbone is kept lengthened while your skull is lifted away from the base of your neck. Stretch your arms out in front of you. You can stay in this resting pose as long as you need.
These five simple stretches can alleviate a lot of pain and pressure from different areas of your spine. They don’t require much time or money spent on extra materials, so you can do them as much as you want.