Stretching & Back Pain
Stretching is very useful in reducing your back pain and is also helpful in preventing future back pain from happening. When stretching just be careful to do it properly and don't over-do it.
Stretching will give you the flexibility you need to safely do whatever it is you normally do. Be aware that there is such a thing as too much flexibility, you don't really need to be able to lean over backwards and touch the floor with the palms of your hands. Athletes tend to need more flexibility than the rest of us simply because of the torture they put their bodies through, so naturally they need to stretch more than we do.
How much stretching is enough?? Basically if you notice that within your normal range of motion your muscles feel tight then you need to stretch more. Gentle stretching is good enough, don't punish yourself and try to dramatically increase your range of motion all in one session, if you do too much then chances are you won't be moving too well for a while. Take it easy and stretch consistently, do it every day. I like to stretch several times during the day, and I notice an immediate reduction in pain after a good stretch.
Choose a stretching method which is most comfortable for you, whether it's with an inversion table, lying on the floor, or standing upright. For example, one of my favorite stretches for Sciatica pain is the knee to chest stretch. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor then gently pull one knee toward your chest. Just pull one knee at a time and hold it there for about 15-20 seconds then return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg. Remember your goal is to stretch to become flexible enough to do your normal tasks without risking injury, and to reduce the amount of back pain you have now and would have in the future.
Stretching is most effective when you are warmed up and relaxed. Walking for a few minutes should be sufficient as a warm up, you may also use a heat pack on your back prior to stretching exercises. Some discomfort is normal while stretching, however if you are feeling real pain you should stop or you may be risking further injury. It's a good idea to use an ice pack after your stretching exercises, especially if you are feeling a bit sore.
Remember to talk with your physician before beginning a stretching program, they can instruct you which stretches will work best for your situation. Chiropractors and physical therapists often have instruction sheets with stretches and exercises illustrated and most will gladly provide one to you free of charge even if you're not a patient.
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