Stretching for Back Health

Some of the most common back injuries occur when you pick up a relatively heavy object from the floor and move it to a higher level. Back injuries also can occur when you lift a lighter object or absorb a falling weight, where you twist your spine. Medical research has shown that a strong and supple back is more resistant to fatigue and to injury. These injuries are often caused by acute over-stress or by chronic overuse.

This article discusses the importance of spine flexibility and the Do’s and Don’ts of proper stretching for a healthy back.

Why is back health important?

Any time that you twist or bend at the waist, you are putting a physical load on your spine and the muscles that support it. If the flexibility of your back and hamstring area is not good when you bend forward, when you bend to the side, or when you twist at the waist, the strain that you put on your spine and its muscles is greater. If the movement you make at the waist is quick or beyond your normal range of motion, your chances of back injury are much greater. If you stretch correctly and regularly, every movement that you do that involves your back will become easier. This is the reason that good back flexibility is important in reducing the chances of back injury in your job, as well as away from the job.

Some Basic Rules for SAFE and EFFECTIVE Stretching There are five basic rules regarding stretching which you should keep in mind as you begin to focus on improving the flexibility of your spine.

1. Stretching exercises, if done correctly, should not be painful! If you are feeling pain during a stretch, you have gone too far beyond your normal range of motion for that exercise. Proper stretching will cause you to feel a good level of muscle tension and a little bit of a ‘burn’ but will keep you in the pain-free range of motion.

2. Stretching exercises must be performed gradually and progressively without jerking! You should NEVER bounce up and down during a stretch to try and extend your range of motion. Always do your stretch slowly and with complete control so that you do not risk an injury (muscle pull or spasm) during the exercise. This will ensure that your stretching routine is as effective as possible.

3. Each stretch should be “held” for 30 to 40 seconds to be most effective! If you only hold your stretched position for 5 to 10 seconds, you will not gain in flexibility. In order to see some real improvement in the suppleness of your spine and other joints, you must hold each stretch for 30 to 40 seconds while you consciously try to relax the muscles which normally tense up.

4. Do not hold your breath during the stretching exercise! Breath normally during your stretching exercises and avoid holding your breath. Try to be rhythmical (a steady pace) in your breathing as this will increase the feeling of relaxation which you will feel as you become more practiced in proper stretching techniques.

5. Stretching exercises should be done every day! There is no reason why you cannot set aside 15 minutes each day (perhaps while you are watching television or before you get out of bed in the morning) to complete your stretching routine.

An increase in flexibility of your spine will help to reduce the chances of suffering painful injuries to your back. As this is an area of importance within your physical conditioning regimen, we recommend that you invest in any number of excellent publications on this topic to learn more about proper stretching technique and the various exercises you can use to build an effective stretching routine.