At CBD Physio, a good 80% of our patients come in with signs and symptoms relating to a stiff and/or painful back. The usual question I get from patients is “everyone gets a stiff back, why is it painful?”
The short answer is a joint by definition is two
or more bones articulating to give movement. Some joints have cartilage in-between. The cartilage acts as a shock absorber and also as a lubricator. Stiff joints don’t move so the cartilage doesn’t produce any lubricant, the joint becomes “dry” hence the pain.
We spend too much time in sitting positions. At work, driving, relaxing at home etc. We are after all Primates and are meant to be moving, chasing Gazelles or swinging from trees and in-activity has its consequences. When we sit, our shoulders roll forward and we unconsciously move into a Slump position causing pain in the upper thoracic spine and strain on our shoulder muscles. Studies have shown that sitting increases intra-lumbar disc pressures more than any other position.
Difference between flexibility and stretching
Flexibility refers to the range of motion for a given joint… Stretching is a form of exercise that can lead to an increase in flexibility. “Only stretch a muscle to a comfortable point and hold for about 15 seconds or so.” — Michael Esco, PhD
These next few exercises are the ones I use in my clinic every day and are pretty easy to do at home. A couple of important points to make here are:
- Don’t over-stretch: Progress till you feel a comfortable stretch and hold for a max of 15 sec
- Don’t bounce at the end of a stretch that can cause micro tearing of delicate muscle fibres
- Static stretches work best AFTER exercise to cool down the body and get rid of lactic acid build ups
1) Cross Over
Lie on your back and keep one leg straight, bend the opposite knee to 90 degrees across your body. Keep the opposite shoulder in contact with the ground. You should feel a stretch in your lower back. Repeat the stretch with the opposite leg. You can progress this stretch to bring your left knee to right shoulder and vice versa. This is a good Glut/Piriformis stretch.
2) Cat Stretch
Start on all fours with your hips, knees and shoulders at 90 degrees. Carefully arch through your lower and mid back. Hold and repeat.
3) Heel Sit
With feet hip width apart, kneel back on to your heels with your arms outstretched. You should feel a stretch in your lower back.
4) Knees to Chest
Bring both knees in to your chest and gently pull in with your hands to increase the stretch. Your buttocks should lift off the ground slightly and your back should flatten against the floor.
5) “Cobra” Extension
Lie on your front carefully supporting your upper body through your arms. Push hips into the floor. Allow the lower back, buttocks and stomach to relax – hold.
6) Standing Side Bend
Stand up straight and cross your stretching leg over the other leg. Lean the opposite way with your hands on your hips; you will feel a stretch in the side of your hip and stomach. You can make this more effective by stretching your (L) arm against a wall at the same time.
7) Standing Extension
Stand up straight, shoulders over hips and place your hands into your lower back. Carefully push your hips forwards with your fingers and arch back through your lower back. This standing stretch is also good for office workers -and that’s most of us, as it can be done at any time and just gives you a break from the desk sitting position. You can also maximise this by adding on a little hip rotation** (sort of like Hula Hoop-ing) in both directions
**Maybe save this one for the more private areas of your office!!