A good stretching routine can really help patients with back pain as the process of stretching the muscles helps reinforce good posture, which relieves the back muscles of stress. However, many chiropractic patients aren't familiar with creating a stretching routine, so if this sounds like you, consider the three tips below to get you started:
Don't Just Focus on Your Back
Many people with back pain make the mistake of stretching only their back muscles in order to relieve their discomfort. However, the back is an extremely complex system of muscles, ligaments and tendons that is greatly affected by other muscles in the body. It's important to stretch these muscles out during your exercise routine in order to ensure your back pain isn't exacerbated by tight muscles elsewhere in your body.
When designing a stretching routine, remember to add in the following muscle groups in addition to your problem area:
Hamstrings/Quadriceps – Some people are surprised to discover that tight hamstrings or quadriceps can lead to back pain, but if these muscles are tight, they can have an impact on your posture, which can lead to discomfort.
Hip Flexors – Your hip flexors play a crucial role in supporting the lumbar spine, and if these muscles are tight, they can cause your pelvis to rotate excessively, leading to a condition known as Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT). If you have APT, your spine will show excessive curvature in the lumbar region, which could be uncomfortable if not corrected.
Pectoral Muscles – Tight chest muscles can pull your shoulders forward, which can lead to excessive kyphosis over time. This "hunchback" posture places unnecessary stress on your thoracic spine, so you should loosen up your chest muscles as part of your stretching routine.
Consider Ballistic Stretching
Ballistic stretching is a dynamic form of stretching that utilizes your body's momentum to stretch a muscle beyond its normal range of motion. You've likely carried out ballistic stretching at one time or another without knowing; many people "bounce" into a stretch intuitively in order to move through a great range of motion. This exact technique, if practiced properly, can greatly lengthen your muscles and make your body much more flexible over time.
The way ballistic stretching works is by using your stretched muscles as a sort of spring in order to increase the flexibility of your muscles. This type of stretching can potentially lead to injury if not practiced properly, so it's important to be extremely careful when carrying out ballistic stretches. One of the best ways to avoid injury is to avoid using this form of stretching on smaller muscle groups; rather, focus on using ballistic stretching when loosening up your hamstrings or glutes as these areas have the largest muscles in the body and are able to withstand high
Yoga enthusiasts know how important the breath is when stretching, but even if you aren't looking to become a yogi anytime soon, being able to utilize your breath whilst stretching will help your increase the intensity of your stretches. Over time, this will reduce the tension in your back and increase your flexibility, reducing the tension in your spine.
The best way to use your breath to increase your range of motion is to synchronize your breathing with your stretch. When you inhale, hold the stretch, and when you exhale, move deeper into your pose. Remember not to force your muscles into an overstressed position; rather, use the extra relaxation from exhaling to sink deeper into your stretch.
When it comes to stretching for back pain relief, breathing properly is one of the best exercises you can practice. This is because the muscles in your lower back and abdomen help your body with the breathing process. Therefore, when you breathe properly, you give your muscles a chance to relax, which can relieve any knots or tension and give your body a well-needed rest.
For more information and help with stretching and relieving back pain, talk with a professional chiropractor, such as those at Hidden Valley Chiropractic.