According to the ACA (American Chiropractic Association), back pain is the second most common reason for doctor’s office visits.
Contrary to popular belief, most cases of back pain are not due to fracture, infection, or other serious issues, rather it is the result of internal problems such as blot clots or kidney stones. Most people get back pain for reasons such as arthritis, poor posture, physiological stress and in some cases, carrying around too much weight.
This is where it gets interesting...
In many cases, preventing or treating back pain at home could be a viable option. As we get older, one of the most effective ways to avoid having back pain altogether is to keep our spine supple and the body's postural muscles strong. Both of which can be done with these simple stretching methods.
Disclaimer: Be sure to check with your doctor or physical therapist before you do these stretches or if you are currently having back pain.
A simple sturdy chair is all you need!
These exercises should be done while sitting in a sturdy chair - and no an armchair doesn't qualify as sturdy in this case. It is much easier to achieve good posture when you’re sitting on a more rigid surface.
Keep your feet firmly planted and sit with your knees at a 90-degree angle. You should be sitting square in the seat. Do not sit perched on the edge of your seat.
Constantly staring at screens (mobile devices and more), reading, driving or even just eating can cause neck pain. This neck pain can contribute to pain in other parts of our spine and back, typically the upper and mid-spine.
With the exercise method described below, you can ease this pain and stretch out your chest. If you feel like your chest often feels tight and needs to be opened back up, this is the exercise for you.
What muscles are worked?
This exercise stretches the pectorals and erector spinae as well as the scapulae and trapezius muscles in your neck. The neck and chest stretch gently works your obliques too. Here's how to do it!
How To Do It
- Begin seated, feet flat on the floor, sitting up straight. Bring your hands to rest at the base of your skull, fingers intertwined, thumbs running by your ears and down your neck. (This is the classic “relaxed, laid back” pose, with your head resting in your hands.
- Ease your head back into your hands, turning your face toward the ceiling.
- Inhale deeply. As you exhale, ease your left elbow so it’s pointing more toward the ground, your right elbow toward the ceiling. This will stretch your neck in a supported way. Note: This should be an easy movement, so if it’s a slight movement and your elbows only move an inch or 2, that’s fine. It should feel like a good stretch, not painful.
- Take 2 deep breaths and ease yourself back to neutral, spine upright.
- Repeat on your other side, right elbow toward the ground, left elbow toward the ceiling. Do this 3 times on each side, alternating sides as you go.
How To Do It
- Again, start with your feet firmly planted on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. Edge just a little forward on the seat. You don’t want to feel like the chair may tip forward or that you’re unstable in the seat, but you do want a little more room behind you.
- As you inhale, press down into your seat, sit up straight, your spine lengthening, and lift your arms up overhead.
- As you exhale, turn gently to your right, placing your left hand on the outside of your right knee and your right hand wherever feels comfortable. This could be on the chair seat or back, but do not use that hand to “crank” your twist deeper. You want to feel the twist equally through all of your spine, and using your arm strength to twist yourself harder can cause injury and one part of your spine twisting harder than the rest.
- Stay in the twist and as you inhale, feel yourself sit up taller. As you exhale, twist just a little deeper.
- Take 3 to 5 deep breaths before gently releasing the twist and doing it on the other side. Alternate so you stretch at least twice on each side.
Not only will these simple stretches help you treat back pain while sitting on your chair at home, but they can also help you avoid pain in the future. As we age, our muscles become shorter and lose their elasticity. While avoiding movement can seem momentarily less painful, it only exacerbates these issues, thus making our muscles weaker which causes pain.
By stretching your back and chest and keeping your shoulder joints and the joints in your back moving, you avoid pain, improve posture and range of motion, as well as maintain a higher quality of life.