Nothing can knock you off your game like a sore, tight back. It can come on without warning and make doing everything from showering to sitting feel really uncomfortable. That’s where stretching can come in. “It increases circulation, which helps muscles clear lactic acid and infuses them with newly oxygenated blood,” says Dr. Karen Erickson, a chiropractor based in New York and spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association. “That can help resolve inflammation and reduce soreness.”
That said, it’s important to note that there are definitely times you shouldn’t start stretching your back. “When you feel acute, sharp pain, stretching can actually lead to further damage,” says Jamie Costello, executive director of fitness for Pritikin Longevity Center. “In those instances, you need to see your doctor and get evaluated for injuries like a herniated disk or nerve compression.” But as long as what you’re feeling is tightness and general uncomfortableness along with some problems moving normally, try these posture-perfecting stretches:
For Your Lower Back: Both Erickson and Costello recommend a simple stretch where you lie on your back and pull your knees up toward your chest. “Grab either right behind your knees or on top of them, then gently pull them toward your chest,” says Erickson. “Just breathe and relax into the stretch.” After you do that, Erickson suggests making a figure four with your legs (you cross one ankle over the other leg’s knee) and pulling the knee gently towards your chest. Do that on both sides, holding for 30 seconds.
For Your Mid-Back: If you’ve ever done a yoga class, you likely have done the cat/cow pose, which just happens to be great for your spine. For this stretch, start on all fours and, when you inhale, arch your back and lift your head and tailbone to the sky. When you exhale, curl your back and tuck your tailbone underneath, letting your head drop. “This one is good for your entire spine, but especially mid-back,” says Costello.
For Your Upper Back and Neck: This area gets tight on a lot of people (you can thank always looking down at your phone for that, which is also known as tech neck), but you want to be careful when you stretch it. “Your neck is fragile, so I like to always stretch it in line with your torso,” says Erickson. To do this, put both hands behind your head with your elbows facing out. Do a side stretch to each side like this, then rotate your torso to the left and right, then bend slightly forward and slightly backward. “Don’t go too far, you just want to open up your neck, shoulders, and upper rib cage,” says Erickson.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.