Want a healthy and pain free back? Do these 3 simple stretches each day to keep your back feeling supple and strong.
The beauty of the human body is that it is always working to repair and restore tissue, and that everything is connected. Sometimes though, we just need to give ourselves a little boost to get the connections all lined up nicely and flowing well.
It is a fact of human physiology that as we age, we lose elasticity and pliability in fascia, the ligaments and tendons that attach the muscles to our bones. This doesn’t happen overnight, but every day you spend sitting at your nine-to-five job, your hips are getting tighter, your fascia less mobile and your back less flexible.
So, how we we reverse this? Unfortunately we can’t undo ageing, or all the amount of sitting that we do. As much as we would love to, we can’t stretch for as long as we sit each day! However, we need to realise that our ancestors lived a very different lifestyle to us and did not spend as much time hunched over forwards as we do now. They ran, foraged and moved, whereas in today’s society we are sedentary more than we are active. The good news is – that there are some simple stretches we can do for key muscle groups to help mobilise tissue and restore some healthy flexibility back into our hips, spine and pelvis.
If you want to keep your back healthy and mobile, here are 3 simple stretches you can do every single day. For best results, hold each stretch for 1 – 2 minutes on each side.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
The more we sit flexed, the shorter, stiffer and tighter our hip flexors become. You can do this stretch as a kneeling lunge as shown above, or with your back leg off for a deeper stretch if you have the balance. Raise your top arm to intensify the stretch. This movement can dramatically help the lower back by opening up the hips and taking pressure off the spine where the hip flexor muscles attach.
Glute / Piriformis Stretch
Glutes are a powerful, fast-moving muscle group. They often get tight with sports, and prolonged sitting can cause you to develop even tighter glutes and stiffer hips. Whether you sit all day or are a running fanatic, your glutes are probably tight and need some love.
This figure 4 stretch is our go-to because your back is in a safe position and not at risk of overstretching or any excessive mobility. You can increase this stretch by straightening the top leg which will also give you a hamstring release.
Midback Foam Roll
Your midback is the part of your spine from the top of your shoulder blades to the bottom of your ribs. Most people find this part quite stiff and immobile The foam roller is more about mobilizing tissue than actually stretching in the classic sense.
Start by rolling up and down your midback for 1 – 2 minutes, focusing on areas that feel tighter. It should feel like a gentle massage to your back muscles. Note: support your head with your hands to avoid overworking the neck and don’t let the roller come down to your lowerback area.
Want a little bit more of a release or don’t have a roller at home? Try our roll and release pilates mat class on Tuesdays at 6.30pm, or try our general pilates mat and reformer classes which all incorporate strengthening and stretching moves.