Get Into The Habit Of Regular Stretching For Lower Back Pain Relief
Stretching can often be an afterthought but it's one of the best things you can do for your lower back pain. Find out why here.
When was the last time you had a good stretch?
If you're struggling to remember then read on.
Because getting into the habit of stretching regularly is vital for fighting off back pain.
And it can also help you to stay active too.
As it makes you more flexible and increases the range of motion in your joints.
The problem with stretching is it's not viewed as the most macho of activities.
So many men avoid doing it.
But if that's the case for you then have a rethink.
Because stretching will change your pain experience for the better.
Don't Be A Stereotypical Man And Dismiss Stretching
When I think about men not wanting to stretch it always reminds me of the former West Ham United footballer Julian Dicks.
Now Julian didn't look like your average footballer.
What he did look like was the kind of guy that you didn't want to run into down a dark alley.
And being a bonafide hard nut, stretching wasn't for Julian.
Because in his mind it was an activity for sissies.
So he point blank refused to do it.
And the coaching staff weren't going to force him to do it either.
Well you can't blame them really can you?
I mean have you seen Julian?!
So half an hour before every game the whole of the West Ham team would head out onto the pitch to go through their stretches and warm up their bodies for the full-bloodied action to come.
All except for Julian.
So what was he doing instead?
He'd be sat in a steaming hot bath in the changing rooms having a cigarette to loosen himself up!
Pretty unprofessional you'd think right?
Who did this guy think he was?
The thing is Julian got away with it.
Because when the action got underway he would usually be the best player on the pitch.
And he was full of passion and aggression.
Flying into tackles like his life depended on it.
Because no-one was getting past him.
He was a true warrior and the West Ham crowd ADORED him for it.
And so did his team-mates.
Because he terrified the oppositions players so much so that some of them wouldn't want to receive the ball at all.
In fact they would go to extreme lengths to avoid it.
Because as soon as they had the ball they'd be faced with the sight of Julian charging at them full pelt with his teeth snarling.
And no-one wanted that!
(I have no doubt there is a support group out there of ex-footballers who all still have a Julian Dicks stud mark on their shins!)
So what's the moral of the story here?
That stretching is a waste of time and only for sissies?
No quite the opposite actually.
Because unfortunately (or fortunately!) for us mere mortals Julian was a one-off.
So the rest of us need to stretch regularly to keep our bodies flexible and healthy.
And this is also one of the best things you can do to reduce lower back pain.
So don't fall into the macho trap and instead embrace stretching into your life.
What Are The Health Benefits of Stretching?
We all love a good stretch from time to time right?
And why wouldn't you.
Because it gives you a satisfying and instant release from muscle tension and stiffness.
Which allows you to go about your day feeling freer and happier within your body.
And stretching out the body works to lengthens and strengthen your muscles too.
Which leads to many health benefits such as keeping you flexible, balanced, strong and increasing your circulation.
However on the flip side allowing your muscles to remain inactive and not stretching them out will cause them to constrict and shorten.
This will make you less mobile, lead to you having a poor posture, and can cause muscle imbalances to from throughout your body.
And these imbalances are bad news.
Because they force your body to compensate throughout the day.
And your lower back is what typically ends up taking more of the strain.
So getting into the habit of stretching regularly is crucial to keep your body (and back) healthy and functioning well.
Why is Stretching Good For Back Pain?
Stretching regularly carries great health benefits for everyone.
But it has been found to be especially good for people with chronic lower back pain.
Which is great news for us.
For instance, in one study two groups of people with chronic lower back pain were put onto the same rehabilitation program.
However one of the groups also had a stretching program added on top of the rehabilitation program.
And while both groups showed less pain and better functioning after two weeks of the program.
The group that were also stretching regularly made even greater progress.
In fact they had a greater range of motion and could move and function better than the other group.
So stretching regularly had actually sped up their rehabilitation process.
So why is stretching so good for your back?
Well firstly it increases your flexibility, which give you a greater range of motion.
This will allow you to move around easier and stay active.
Secondly, it improves your posture.
This is because when your muscles are tight your body hunches up into bad positions
So releasing this tightness through stretching allows your body to relax and settle into a healthier posture.
And this reduces strain on your back.
Thirdly, it increases circulation.
Which means that more oxygen and nutrients get to your muscles which allows them to strengthen, repair and heal.
And finally by stretching before and after work and exercise you can greatly lower the chance of injury and picking up any muscle strains.
Pretty good for such a simple activity, eh?
Make Sure You Are Stretching Your Whole Body Not Just Your Lower Back
It's important not to fall into the trap of thinking that you only need to stretch out your lower back area if you have lower back pain.
Because your body functions as a whole.
And each part needs to be stretched out and working correctly to prevent any compensating or muscle imbalances from developing.
So to reduce your back pain you need to make sure that you regularly stretch out the following areas:
Neck and Shoulders
The body tends to hold a lot of stress and tension in these areas which can lead to you adopting a hunched posture.
Also having tight shoulders limits your movement which can cause you problems at work.
So keep your neck and shoulders loose.
Hips and Groin
Tightness in these areas can cause so many problems for your back as it forces it to carry more of the load.
And tightness in the hips and groin also limits your range of motion.
Which causes you to overuse the spine as you move around as it is lacking the support it relies on from these areas.
So it's vital that you regularly stretch out your hips and groin.
And by doing so you'll also get the added benefit of increasing circulation to all the surrounding areas.
Which can also give you an nice additional burst of energy.
As someone with chronic lower back pain it is highly likely that you will also suffer from tension and cramps in the buttocks.
This is because your glutes become overworked when your lower back is under pressure.
And on top of this the glutes area also houses the piriformis muscle.
This muscle is closely linked to your sciatic nerves and can consequently cause sciatic pain when it's tight.
So stretching out the glutes will not only help your back, it will lessen your chances of developing sciatica too.
Just like your glutes, your hamstrings are also very likely to be tight when you have lower back pain.
And tightness in the hamstrings will only increase the load and stress on your lower back.
So it's vital to keep them area stretched out and loose.
Lower Back and Abs
Stretching out these areas keep the muscles that support your spine strong and supple.
Which will allow you to keep a good spinal alignment.
And this will also help you to maintain a healthy posture.
Both of which will take the strain off your back.
How To Get Started With Stretching
So now you know you should be stretching how do you find out which ones you are supposed to do?
Well firstly it helps to know that there are two important components of a good stretching program which are static stretches and dynamic stretches.
- Static stretches are ones that you hold for a certain length of time and work to lengthen your muscles and increase flexibility.
- Dynamic stretches are ones that you get through moving your joints through their full range of motion which helps to keep your body mobile, supple and strong.
And it's important to come up with a combination of the two to gain the maximum benefits from stretching.
To help you get started I've put together a stretching guide that covers mostly static stretches in all the areas I mentioned above.
This guide comes with easy to follow instructions and photographic demonstrations.
And these static stretches are great to do during the working day as you'll already be warmed up from your physical work.
This is the actual daily stretching routine that I do myself throughout each day, picking certain stretches at certain times depending on what feels tight.
And as for dynamic stretches there are plenty of free videos online that can show you what to do.
One great site that is full of them is called Fitness Blender.
They have a ton of workout videos that include stretching, core strengthening, yoga and pilates.
You name it and they've covered it.
So check out one example of their stretching videos below (this is a good one for your lower back pain):
You can try some of these stretches to see what works for you and maybe adopt 3 or 4 at a time to do during the work day.
And if you want to take stretching and flexibility further, try their 3 day flexibility challenge below which combines static and dynamic stretches along with core exercises.
This will really get you stretched out and provides a great defence against lower back pain.
Hopefully after reading through this article you'll disagree with Julian and understand the importance of regular stretching.
As it really will make the world of difference to your back pain.
And not only will this help you to work more comfortably.
It will also help you to stay more active outside of work too.
But whether you only use stretching as a quick release of tension at work.
Or whether you take it further and try to get your body as flexible as possible.
Make sure you make it a regular part of your daily life.
As it will keep your body flexible and supple and really help to minimise your back pain.
Personally I always stretch myself out first thing in the morning, a few times during the day, and last thing at night before going to bed.
This has really helped me over the years.
And the great thing about stretching is that it can be done anywhere, it's free, and it's easy to do.
So all in all it's a great activity to keep your lower back pain at bay.