Stretching and Back Pain Relief

For some people who experience back pain, stretching can be an intuitive response to try to alleviate their pain. Others may avoid stretching if their pain is too great, out of fear of worsening the condition.

However, proper stretching techniques have proven benefits for most people who have neck and back pain. Stretching promotes flexibility in the soft tissues of the spine, which is essential to keeping the spine healthy and in good working order.

Not all stretches are created equal

A good stretching routine may be able to relieve sciatica, neck pain and bulging disc pain. When beginning a stretching regimen, however, it is important to keep in mind that not just any stretches will help those who have back pain. As with almost any physical activity, proper technique will make all the difference. Poor technique will not only keep you from reaping the benefits of your stretching routine, but it may also lead to injury and make your condition worse.

The first rule of good stretching is: if it hurts, don’t do it. This may seem like common sense, but many people believe physical activity or exercise must hurt in order to be beneficial (“no pain, no gain”). When stretching properly, the sensation should be gentle and relaxing. You may not be able to stretch very far before the sensation intensifies past their comfort zone, and that’s okay. Over time, your tendons, ligaments and muscles will become more limber, allowing you to deepen your stretches without pain.

Keeping your routine orderly

If you are experiencing back pain caused by herniated discs, arthritis of the spine or other similar conditions, your stretching routine will likely focus mostly on the neck and spine. In this case, an important element of the stretching program will be to make sure to stretch your neck and back muscles in proper order. Your vertebrae, as well as the soft tissues that support them, are connected to each other in a specific way. A good rule of thumb is to begin your stretching routine with your neck and work your way down. As you stretch each progressive group of muscles, you’ll benefit from the muscles you’ve already stretched along the way.

As you stretch, be careful not to bounce. Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, and breathe deeply as you hold the pose. Try to remain focused and peaceful; avoid distractions and rushing as much as possible.

Resources for good stretching

There are a number of websites and books that teach specific stretching techniques for neck and back pain. However, there is no better source than a trained professional with back pain experience. Your local gym may have a resource on staff, or be able to direct you to one in your area. Your physician should also be able to recommend a physical therapist who can teach you proper stretching techniques.

As with any fitness routine, be sure to check with your physician before beginning. Monitor your body’s reactions carefully, and stop and seek immediate medical attention if you believe you are injured.