12 great stretches for people with chronic back pain
Most people, it seems, are no strangers to back pain. Luckily for us the body knows how to heal and regenerate. Focus on healing both the body and mind. Everything within and without the body adapts and heals. Chronic simply means incomplete healing. Every injury is chance to understand the body, its an opportunity to strengthen your weaknesses. Only you have the power to heal yourself. Its your choice to heal yourself and level up. It 100% your choice to heal your self and if you have children focus on healing there little bodies. They only know as much as you.
Stay accountable and responsible for healing you. Stretches are exercises to gently and carefully extend your pain-free range of back motion. Start with flexibility and move on to strengthening the body. Both strength and stabilization exercises will help keep your spinal components in place as you perform everyday tasks (from sitting in a chair to getting out of bed). Functional strength train to help you enjoy better spinal support and maintain a straighter posture. Strength training is optimal for chronic back pain.
Most all of these stretches and poses are both meditative and heal the body. Try to relax, focus on breath work and try to silence the mind the best you can. Meditation is like working out, both challenging a rewards. 5 - 15 breaths or reps per stretch for beginners. 5 - 10 minute stretches and poses for intermediate to advanced.
Forward Fold & Back Roll
Unwind the spine. Strand straight with your toes and feet should with a apart. Hands to the sky or down by your sides. Slowly tuck your chin and start to round you thoracic (upper back). Continue to fold the lower back, bending forward as far to the ground as possible. Reverse this movement and roll the spine upwards. Lift your head back, pull your upper back, straighten yourself up. This movement should feel smooth, imagine your spine as a worm.
Optional fold back up top can be added. If movement seems to difficult you can start in the seated position until your ready. If overweight or have belly that could interfere, go down as far as possible.
Side Lateral Spine Bend
Stand straight with your feet hip or shoulder width apart. Arms can be down by your side or up for added shoulder stretch. Start by leaning as far left as possible. As you go towards one side pause, come back up to the center and repeat by leaning as far right as possible. That is one repetition. You can try 10 - 50 daily.
Stand straight with your feet hip or shoulder width apart. Slowly turn your head to the left as far a possible continue rotation through your mid back, continue rotation the hips as far to the left as possible. Let your head lead the body, finally bend the arms and interlock your hands in front of your chest, close to your body. Continue to stretch as far as possible, added hand pull for extra twist. Return to setup position and repeat on one side. That's one repetition. 10 - 50 reps daily.
Maintain a nice slow pace, no momentum is needed to move the torso or hips. All of the movement should come from the muscles working. Focus on strong gluteal muscles (butt) as you go, opposite side glute of the stretch should powerfully contract. Added stretch with hands can overwork body, luckily the body adapts, evolves and thrives. After you will be more flexiable and have more strength.
Cat Cow Pose
Start on all fours with shoulders over wrists and hips over knees. Toes can be tucked or untucked. Form a L shape with your index finger and thumbs. Strat with the cow (lower) inhale as you arch your spine, pulling your chest forward and lifting your tailbone toward the ceiling. Exhale as you round your spine, pulling your forehead toward your hips. Press down through your hands to lift the upper back toward the ceiling. Tuck chin to chest. This is one repetition. 5 - 15 reps or breaths.
If you have neck or back pain, or if you deadlifted 2x body weight the day before reduce the depth of the stretch (don’t round or arch your back as much). The body is always adapting, evolving, healing and thriving. If you have trouble getting into a tabletop position, you can do this from a standing position. You can place your hands on the back of a chair or a tabletop.
Beginners level pose both calms the mind and relaxes the body. Can be preformed to 1 - 5 minutes if you would like. Variations and modifications can be added if need be. You will start on both knees, start slowly sitting your butt and hips to your feet. Cushioning is able to go under your knees, in between knees or under your forehead if reaching floor seems difficult. Raise both arms upward and slowly start bending forward, forehead should touch the ground or floor. Arms stretch out, arms behind and grabbing feet relieves pain of spine and back in numerous locations. Wonderful pose for increasing circulation, relaxation and strengthening the back.
This Pose both stretches and strengthens the upper body. Its a simple stretch that should be preformed properly to prevent over stimulation. if you have carpal tunnel or bad wrist avoid upward dog. Begin laying face down legs slightly apart, place your hand near your lower ribs. Inhale as your press your body off the ground lifting your torso and hips. Drive feet into floor for quad activation, able to lift legs of floor to engage quad more if need be. Shoulders shoulder be drawn back and not rounding upwards or forwards. Upward dog is a great stretch for not only the back, but the chest, abs, arms, wrist and shoulders. Personally my body feels energized after upwards dog.
Pigeon Pose is a hip opener forward bend. It warms our body up for back bends. Plank version and arms straight allow for spine and back to open up. There are a few ways to approach this pose, able to do so after downward dog. Which I forgot to picture. Personally I'm rather flexible and start on my knee or in table top and lunge forward. Keeps hips square and balance on both sides of body. The shin can angle back towards the hip or be more parallel to the front of your mat, depending on your range of motion and mobility of knees. Release pose and go back to downward dog or neutral on your knees. Stretching both sides for 1 - 2 minutes.
This pose is on of my absolute favorites, this backbend activates so many part of the body and this movement is super adaptable. It works both the whole front body as well as both the back and core. Start in kneeling position, reach back to the ground at first. Working your way up to the camel pose pictured in the middle.
We tend to see body, breath and mind as separate. In zazen we begin to see how the are all connected and are and inseparable reality. We first begin to give our attention to the position and posture of our body. Establish an awake and relaxed posture. Since the body and mind are on our posture directly effects our breathing and state of mind. With zazen you strengthen the mind, body and soul and while becoming mindful of you posture. A stable relaxed, wakeful posture helps us ease the mind into believe it is stable, relaxed and wakeful.
Keeping the back straight and centered, rather than slouching or leaning to the side, allows the diaphragm to move freely and the mind to find stability. An upright spine allows our breathing to be deep, easy, and natural. Breathe in a relaxed manner, not controlling or manipulating the breath, that is, breathe in the way that feels most effortless. During zazen, breathe through your nose and allow your mouth to be gently closed. Its okay if your mind gets side track, let the thoughts go, rethink think an re center. Bring your awareness back to your breath. Personally I practice 2-2-2-2 or 4-4-4-4 breath work, inhaling for 4, holding for 4, exhaling for 4, hold for 4 and repeat.
Starting in the Buddha pose is easiest. Sitting on the floor or pillow is recommend. After sitting for 5 - 20 minutes your body will feel a burn in the ankles, back, shoulders. it is all about staying relaxed and stable. Flexibility, mindfulness and strength are all attained from zazen. I sit on my feet because this is how many samurai would practice zazen. It took time for my body to adapt. During meditation keeping the back straight and centered, rather than slouching or leaning to the side, allows the diaphragm to move freely and the mind to find stability. An upright spine allows our breathing to be deep, easy, and natural. Breathe in a relaxed manner, not controlling or manipulating the breath, that is, breathe in the way that feels most effortless.
During zazen, breathe through your nose and allow your mouth to be gently closed. Personally I sit with my legs tucked under my butt because I read this is how the samurai would practice. It took my body time to adapt, ankle mobility, stability, posture and breath control were all to gain. I have been practicing meditation since 2017 to help me with anxiety, depression and ptsd. Mind and body are connected and we have the power to control both.
Thanks for reading this article. If you have any question feel free to message me anytime. I've showed many of my clients these stretches, hopefully they help you to heal you back or allow you to become more flexible in the process.
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