Strengthen and Stretch!

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Do you brush your teeth twice daily? How about visit your primary care doctor once a year? You are most likely already taking preventative measures to maintain your health, and the same goes for the health of your spine!

A great way to be proactive about maintaining balance in your body is through stretching and strengthening. In order to keep your back strong and limber, we suggest exercises for your back, core, and legs. By focusing on strengthening and stretching these muscles, you will improve your spine's support system. A strong spine means reducing the risk of back pain and the complications that come with it. Here are our suggestions:

Strengthen and Stretch:

Cat/Cow

A traditional yoga warm-up, cat/cow gently moves your spine, which loosens your muscles and increases flexibility. It also improves circulation around your spinal discs.

  1. Start in a four point starting position, which is when you are on your hands and knees. Be sure that you are properly aligned with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your knees directly below your hips. Your spine should be neutral.
  2. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, engage your core and pull your belly button toward your spine as you round your back into cat position. Be sure to tuck your hips and lower your head, similar to a Halloween cat.
  3. Then, on an inhale, reverse the movement and drop your abdomen towards the floor. Your core should remain engaged as you pull your chest through your arms into cow pose, lifting your gaze towards the sky.
  4. Follow this movement back and forth with your breath, exhaling to cat and inhaling to cow. Practice this movement 3-5 times, twice daily.

Bird Dog

Bird dog is an excellent back and abdomen strengthener, and also helps with spinal stabilization. It helps to reinforce proper alignment and teaches you how to engage your core.

  1. Start again on your hands and knees, spine neutral. Life your right leg so it is parallel to the ground while remaining strong and stable on your arms and other leg. Keep your hips steady and try not to shift your weight.
  2. For a more advanced movement, lift your left arm in front of you, also parallel to the floor. Hold that pose for five seconds, then lower your arm and leg back into four point starting position. Then switch sides. Repeat this movement 3-5 times.

Partial Crunches

You don't have to do traditional sit-ups to strengthen your back and abdomen. Avoid the unnecessary strain and try partial crunches. Partial crunches will increase your core strength without causing back pain.

  1. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Reach your arms straight up with your fingers reaching for the ceiling. Inhale, engage your core muscles, and lift your shoulders off the ground.
  2. Hold this pose for one second, and slowly lower back down to starting position. On your next inhalation, repeat. Do this for 8-12 repetitions. Be mindful of your feet, tailbone, and lower back and that they are touching the floor throughout the exercise.

Hamstring Stretches

Your hamstrings are the muscles that stretch from the back of your knees to your tailbone, and if they're tight, it can lead to lower back pain. When you have tight hamstrings, the muscles shorten, which strains your back. By stretching them, you lengthen the muscles, which reduces tension and stress on your low back.

  1. Start by lying on your back and stretch your right leg out while placing a towel, strap, or belt around the arch of your left foot. Straighten your left leg and push your heel toward the sky. Hold on to both sides of the strap and focus on straightening your left leg and making it perpendicular to the ground.
  2. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds before slowly lowering and repeating on your right leg. Do this for 2-4 repetitions. 

Supine Twist

Supine twists are an excellent stretch to leave your back feeling great. It stretches your glutes and back muscles while strengthening your core. Additionally, these twists hydrate your spinal discs and realign your spine.

  1. Lie on your back and look up at the ceiling. Stretch your right leg long and bend your left knee. Place your right hand on the outside of your left knee, and drop your left hand out to your side. Take a deep breath. On the exhale, use your hand to draw your left knee across your body toward the right. Let your gaze fall to the left.
  2. Keep your left shoulder on the ground and hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Return back to center and repeat on the other side. Do 2-3 repetitions in the morning and evening.

These stretches can help reduce and prevent your lower back pain. Be sure to ask for more stretching suggestions during your next appointment.