Healthy Back Stretches

By Dr. Ben Kim
DrBenKim.com

For close to fifteen years now, I've been recommending two basic stretches to the vast majority of my clients. Stretches to help keep the soft tissues in the lower and mid back regions flexible and well supplied with healthy blood flow. In my experience, no other stretches more effectively keep the trunk and pelvis healthfully limber.

These stretches are more easily demonstrated than described in words. So included below are pictures along with descriptions. If you're at all confused about how to do these two stretches, please feel free to use our contact form to ask for clarification.

Lower Back and Pelvis Rotation Stretch

Begin lying on your back with your knees raised up and feet flat on the floor.

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Next, cross your left leg over your right thigh and rest the outside of your left ankle against the bottom portion of your right thigh.

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Now let both of your legs fall gently to your right until your left foot is flat on the ground to your right.

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Try to keep your upper body flat on the ground. If it naturally lifts a bit to rotate to your right, this is fine.

Now use your right hand to gently bring pull your left leg down towards the ground. You don't have to have much movement of your left leg towards the ground; you just want to create a stretch in your lower back and left pelvic regions.

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To further facilitate a rotary stretch of your lower back and pelvis, place the palm of your left hand behind your left pelvic region and provide a gentle, steady push, working in concert with your right hand to create some torque between your lower back region and the rest of your spine.

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Because this stretch involves "locking" out your lower back joints, very little pull and push are required by your hands. Just the tiniest bit of pressure can produce an effective rotary stretch of the joints that line your pelvis and lumbar spine. Specifically, this stretch aims to target the soft tissues that surround your upper and lower sacroiliac joints and the intervertebral joints that line your lumber spine.

As with all stretches, best results are achieved with steady breathing and a comfortable hold time. Generally, about 30 seconds per side and 3 sets per side are good daily targets for most people.

Mid Trunk Rotation Stretch

To stretch the soft tissues and joints that line your mid-back region, including your ribcage, begin lying on your side with your arms together and pointing straight ahead, and your knees bent and also pointing straight ahead so that your arms and the tops of your thighs are parallel.

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Keep your right arm and legs on the ground, and move your left arm up towards the ceiling and then let it slowly fall back behind you (staying at the same level as your right arm). Allow your left arm to fall back as far as is comfortable - it will come to a rest on its own when your trunk won't allow it to fall any further.

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For some people who are super flexible, the left arm will fall all the way to the ground. But for most people, the left arm will be suspended in the air. Either way, by keeping your right arm and legs on the ground to your right, you'll create an effective rotary and shearing stretch throughout your thoracic spine and ribcage.

This stretch really helps to "open up" the thoracic spinal region, and is sorely needed by most people who sit at work for hours at a time with their shoulders and heads slouched forward.

Again, be sure to maintain steady breathing, aim for 30 seconds a set and 3 sets per side.

These two stretches for your pelvis and spine shouldn't take you more than about five minutes a day. I encourage you to give them a go for a month and observe for yourself how helpful they can be to your physical health.

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