By Free Motion Physiotherapy

We all go through phases in our lives where we are less active than we would like, sometimes far too active and other times we just lift something strangely or hop off a step we shouldn’t have. The reality is that many of us will experience some discomfort or pain in our backs. Studies indicate as high as 80 percent of people will experience an episode of back pain at some point in their life.

As people age, the spine will experience normal degenerative changes. As these changes occur, it is important to maintain flexibility and mobility within the spine, which can decrease the occurrence of back pain. When the spine is flexed (bending forward), pressure is off-loaded which aids in blood flow, and relieves symptoms. We have identified a few simple and effective stretches that anyone can give a try.

1. Prayer Stretch

Tucking legs underneath your body, sit back on the heels and bend forward at the waist. Let your arms slide along the floor as far as possible. Push your bottom back and down and the chest towards the floor.

Breathe out while doing the exercise. (The goal is to get length in the lower back muscles). This movement should be relaxing and pain-free. Hold the position for 30 seconds, keep breathing and then sit back up. Repeat 3-5 times.

2. Single Knee to Chest

Hip tightness is a frequent contributor to lower back pain. To stretch the hamstrings, lower back, and glutes, lie on your back with one knee bent, and one leg straight. Place your hands behind the bent leg and pull it towards your chest until a light stretch is felt down the back of the leg. You can also place hands over the bent leg on the shin or knee and pull towards your chest. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs and do the same thing. Repeat 3-5 times for each leg.

3. Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis is a small muscle that runs diagonally through the glutes. It is one of the external rotators of the hip and will become tight in people who spend significant time sitting, driving, or climbing stairs. An inflamed piriformis can irritate the sciatic nerve which passes through it. To perform this stretch, start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Cross the ankle of the leg to be stretched over the other knee. Put your arms around the thigh. Bring your thigh towards your chest. Feel the stretch in your buttock. Hold for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat same action. Repeat 3-5 times for each leg. (This stretch can also be done in sitting if more comfortable for you- see the 2nd image for positioning)

4. Core Stability – Pelvic Tilt

A lack of core control and stability is a key cause of lower back pain. When the abdominal muscles are not activating, the muscles of the lower back must work harder to stabilize the body in balance. An excellent way to improve core stability is to lie flat with the knees bent up. Tighten and draw in your lower abdominal and pelvic floor muscles (as if bracing for a punch to the stomach). Tilt the pelvis backwards so that your lower back flattens into the floor. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Your arms should be resting by your side. With this stretch, it is important to remember: - Keep your feet flat on the floor

- Keep your shoulders pressed to the floor, but relaxed

- Do not hold your breath as you perform this exercise

While lower back pain is extremely common, it is not something you have to live with every day. Improving hip flexibility and core stability as well as lengthening the back muscles by stretching can help reduce the symptoms of lower back pain. However, if your back pain is chronic or your pain persists, the above stretches can help but additional treatment may then be necessary.

Our aim would be to teach you to better understand your body and empower you to manage your symptoms before they become a hindrance. Please feel free to contact us for advice and guidance.

For any enquiries, please feel free to contact us.

Phone: +27(87) 702 7850

Email: info@freemotionphysio.co.za

Website: www.freemotionphysio.co.za