Stretches to Strengthen Your Core

Stretches to Strengthen Your Core

THURSDAY, March 21, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Ever had a bad spasm from bending down to pick up your child or tie your shoes?

Keeping your core muscles — the workhorses that stabilize your spine — flexible with a stretching routine can help prevent this common occurrence and protect your back in general.

The Pelvic Tilt targets your lower back and your abdominals. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet about hip-width apart. Flatten and then press your lower back into the floor. You’ll feel your hips tilt forward. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.

The Side Stretch helps your back and sides become more limber. In a standing position, extend your right arm above your head. Put your left hand on your hip. Slowly bend to the left without twisting or jerking. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times. Then repeat the sequence on the other side.

The Back Arch stretches hips and shoulders as well as your back. Stand up straight, legs shoulder width apart. Support your lower back with both hands and bend backwards. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.

As a reminder, never bounce when stretching. This can cause muscles to tighten and lead to injury. Ease into every stretch with a slow, steady movement. Stop if any stretch feels uncomfortable. You should feel slight tension, but not pain. And do stretches that you hold only when your body is warm — after a workout is perfect.

More information

Love yoga? The American Council on Exercise details how you can use yoga to work core muscles.

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Low Back Pain? These Exercises May Help

Low Back Pain? These Exercises May Help

THURSDAY, Aug. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Low back pain is a common health complaint. And if it sidelines you for too long, it can lead to weight gain, a loss in your fitness level and keep you from doing things you love.

But not moving isn’t the answer — specific exercises can help you get back to everyday activities. If you’re under the care of an orthopedist or physical therapist, you may be given a series of exercises to do up to three times a day.

Here are three in particular that may help.

Tummy contractions. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip-width apart, and your hands on your tummy below your ribcage. Tighten your abs — it should feel as though your ribcage is being pressed toward your back. Hold for five seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Knee-to-chest stretch. Begin in the same starting position, but for this exercise, place both hands on the back of your left thigh and gently pull the knee to your chest. Hold for 20 seconds, then relax. Repeat five times with the left leg, then switch to the right leg and repeat the entire sequence.

Body stretch sequence. Sit on a large exercise ball with knees bent at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Move your feet slightly out to the sides for balance. First, lift your left arm straight up over your head, then lower it and repeat with the right arm; alternate five times. Next, slowly raise and lower your left heel, then slowly raise and lower your right heel; alternate five times. Finally, raise your left arm overhead and your right heel off the floor at the same time, lower them and reverse, raising your right arm overhead and lifting your left heel off the floor; alternate five times.

Another type of exercise that may help is yoga. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who took a weekly class designed for those with low back pain were helped just as much as those who did traditional physical therapy, and needed less pain medication over time.

More information

The University of California, Berkeley, has detailed information on low back pain and more exercises that can help ease it.

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
4 Physical Therapy Exercises for Lower Back Pain

4 Physical Therapy Exercises for Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is often related to tightness in the surrounding muscles. Here are four exercises and stretches that can offer relief.

Common everyday habits, like sitting at your desk for long periods of time, can leave you with lower back pain and decreased mobility. While we recommend consulting an orthopedic specialist to rule out a serious injury, in many cases a few basic physical therapy exercises can help relieve your symptoms.

Focus on exercises that help you stretch tight muscles, as well as strengthen the torso to relieve stress on the lumbar spine. While the pain may be concentrated in the lower back, muscles connected to the area, like the hamstrings, may also be a cause of discomfort. The following exercises can help you strengthen supporting muscles and release tension in the area as a whole

1. PIRIFORMIS STRETCH

The piriformis muscle in the buttock stretches from the bottom of the spine to the femur. Piriformis tightness, especially if it irritates the nearby sciatic nerve, can cause pain that runs from the lower back all the way into the legs and feet.

To stretch this muscle, first lie flat on your back. Cross your right leg over your left, grasping your right shin with your left hand. Gently pull your right ankle over to the left side of your body and up toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds. Then bend your left knee and bring it up toward your right leg. Grasp your left knee with your left hand and gently pull it toward your torso. You should feel this stretch in your top leg. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, and repeat with the other side. This exercise can help relieve much of the tightness that can build from sitting all day or overusing the muscle.

2. PSOAS MAJOR STRETCH

The psoas major muscle, also known as your hip flexor, connects your lower spine to the top of your thigh, and can become tight and tense if you stay seated for too long. The discomfort may manifest in your lower back as well as your hips. Symptoms of an injury can include difficulty kneeling, standing for long periods, or rising from a seated position.

To perform this stretch, lie on your back, either with your buttocks at the edge of a bed, or on the floor with a towel or foam roller beneath your lower back. You want your extended legs to be able to drop downward, if possible. Bend one knee and bring it up to your chest, pulling it gently with your hands. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to a minute, as long as you don’t feel pain. Repeat with the other leg, and stretch each leg at least three times.

3. HAMSTRING STRETCH

The hamstrings run down the back of your thighs, from the hips to the back of the knees These muscles can easily become tight and cause discomfort in your lower back, especially if you spend eight hours a day sitting in an office chair. Performing hamstring stretches for at least 30 seconds to a minute, twice a day, can go a long way toward easing tension.

One simple stretch is the chair hamstring stretch. While standing, place the heel of one foot on a chair so that your leg makes a straight line. Bending from your hips, lean forward and reach toward your toes. Stop and hold when you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Then repeat with the other leg.

Alternatively, you can try a wall hamstring stretch, which allows you to lie down and avoid stress on the spine. It’s best to use a doorway where you can stretch one leg at a time, but you can also lie on your back and put both of your legs straight up on the wall at once, with your buttocks next to the wall. As you inch close to the wall and straighten your knees, you should feel the stretch in the back of your legs.

4. BIRD DOG

This mat exercise will help you strengthen and stabilize your lower back. Start on your hands and knees with your core tight and your back flat. Extend one leg behind you, with your hips level, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Then simultaneously lift your opposite arm out in front of you and hold. Repeat this 10 times for each leg, and be sure to keep your core tight and your back in position throughout.

LOWER BACK EXERCISES TO AVOID

The above exercises are an effective way to relieve lower back pain. However, there are some exercises that can make the issue worse. Touching your toes, for example, can stress the spine and overstretch your hamstrings. We also advise against doing sit-ups if you’re suffering from back pain, since they tend to actually stress the hips and put pressure on the spinal discs.

It’s best to perform the above exercises after consulting a doctor, and under the supervision of a physical therapist. Be sure to warm up and cool down when you attempt these stretches, to avoid stressing the area and causing spasms or strains. Never force the body into a position that causes pain. In some cases, back issues may be related to “inhibited” muscles, which do not respond to strengthening exercises, and may require an orthopedic specialist’s intervention.

If you’ve tried these exercises and your back pain persists or worsens, the orthopedic specialists at CompOrtho can help you rule out underlying issues and help you develop a productive healing plan.

Stretches for Your Lower Legs

Stretching can keep your lower legs limber and your joints pain free. The following stretches involve the ankles and knee joints.

Keep these guidelines in mind when doing them:

  • Check with your healthcare provider before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have had knee surgery.
  • Begin each stretching session with 5 to 7 minutes of gentle aerobic exercise, such as walking or riding a stationary bicycle, to warm up your muscles.
  • Start out slowly and build repetitions gradually.
  • Stop any exercise that causes pain.
  • Repeat each exercise 2 to 4 times, or as instructed.

Achilles tendon and calf muscles

Stand 2 or 3 feet from a wall. Lean forward with both hands touching the wall, 1 foot forward and the other 12 to 18 inches behind. Leave both feet flat on the floor during the stretch. Hold the stretch position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat for a total of 2 to 4 repetitions. Complete all repetitions on 1 side before changing sides.

Stair-step calf-raise

Stand on a stair step with the toes of both feet near the edge. Position your heels below the level of the step, then rise on your toes. Hold the stretch and slowly return to the starting position.

Be careful. If you have small feet and a large body, overdoing calf raises could damage your foot. To avoid this, gradually increase the number and height of the raises.