Upper back stretches
Following on from this week's earlier post on lower back stretching, I've heard from some patients who would like some upper back stretching ideas also. So as promised, I have laid out the four stretches I have found most beneficial for general upper back muscle tightness.
Always remember these tips whilst stretching:
Always hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds. (Aim for 30 if you can).
The best time of day to stretch is last thing before you go to bed. This is because the stretch you apply to the muscles will last much longer as you’ll be stretching out the muscles before you sleep (so you won’t be using them for the next 6-9 hours or so).
Do not stretch first thing in the morning when you wake up. This is because your muscles need to warm up a bit before you stretch them. If you stretch when you first wake up, you are more at risk of straining the muscles.
Stretching may feel uncomfortable if the muscle you are stretching is particularly tight but it should NEVER feel painful. If it starts to feel painful, ease back on the stretch to avoid straining the muscle.
Child's pose with rotation
This is an adaption of child's pose. Sit back on your knees (feel free to place a towel or blanket under your knees to help cushion them if this is more comfortable). Widen the space between your knees whilst bringing your toes together and lean your head and chest forwards towards the floor. Bring your right arm underneath you and extend it straight out towards the left hand side. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
This is a lovely dynamic stretch which helps to increase movement in all parts of the spine. Position yourself on all fours and gently dome your back towards the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds and then come back to a flat back. Then very gently arch your spine the other way towards the floor so you create a little extension through the back. Hold for a few seconds and then come back to a flat back. Repeat the doming and arching process for 30 seconds.
Tip: be gentle when arching and doming your back - do not over extend your spine as this may irritate your back.
Side bending neck stretch
This stretch can be done either standing or sitting. Gently bring your right ear towards your right shoulder to feel a stretch on the left hand side of your neck. You can place your hand on top of your head to provide a little more weight and therefore create a stronger stretch but NEVER push into your head with your hand. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Lat side stretch
This stretch can also be done either standing or sitting. Reach above your head with both arms. You can interlock your fingers or hold onto your wrists if this is easier. Gently lean your upper body over to one side to feel a nice stretch down the side body. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
I hope you find these stretches useful. Remember, even if you have no back pain, these stretches are a great way of keeping the back supple so give them a go and if you can, make them part of your daily routine. Good luck!