7 Easy Stretches for Improving Your Posture - and Pain
February 1st, 2018
One of the less obvious causes of pain is often our posture. Between desk jobs, computer screens, and smartphones, our bodies spend a significant amount of time in positions that cause harm to our joints, and lead to pain. In fact, 31 million Americans suffer from low back pain, often caused from sitting too long or bad posture.1
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke actually recommends you stretch before starting any exercise or strenuous activity, especially with chronic back pain.2 Stretching is a quick, simple way to ease those aches, and to improve your overall posture. Stretching also increases both your flexibility and range of motion, making it an essential addition to your pain management routine.
Before beginning your stretching routine, it is a good idea to speak with your physical therapist or similar health care provider about the types of stretches you should or should not do. This is especially important if you’ve been diagnosed with a debilitating joint condition. Before you stretch, you may choose to take a warm shower or bath, allowing both your body and mind to relax. Heat therapy is another common pain management tool, and combining heat with gentle stretching can work wonders for comfort.
It is important to remember that stretching is meant to alleviate pain and, in the best case scenario, prevent pain. If you find your stretches to be painful, you are likely overstretching, which can cause muscle strains3, leading to more stiffness in the joints.
While numerous stretches can be found across the web and in health books, the ones chosen below were carefully selected with the goal of improving specific joints and types of pain, as well as enhancing your posture. Try them a few times each week, holding each for around 10 seconds, and let us know in the comments how they augmented your pain toolbox.
Headache Relief Stretch
Tension and migraine headaches are common, debilitating ailments. Help calm your throbbing temples by extending your arms directly out in front of your body, keeping them even with the floor. Grasp one hand with the other, and gently tilt your head forward. This helps release the tension from your neck and head that can contribute to pain.
Waking up with pain in your neck is the worst feeling. Often, the pain comes from the sides of your neck. To stretch this part of your neck, stand with your arms at your sides. Reach both hands behind your back, and use one hand to hold the other. Use the hand holding the other to carefully straighten that arm, and move it slightly away from your body. Then, switch hands.
Lower Back Stretch
Back pain is one of the most common causes of pain. A worthwhile stretch for your lower back is the classic knee-to-chest stretch. For this stretch, lie down on the floor, and gently bring one knee to your chest with your hands behind your knee. Hold this pose at your chest for 10 seconds, and then bring the other knee to your chest, and do the same. Repeat a few times.
Upper Back Stretch
Another classic stretch, the shoulder roll, is ideal for easing upper back pain. To perform this stretch, you carefully and slowly roll your shoulders forward in circular motions. After doing this for several seconds, reverse your shoulder roll. Remember to always take great care to avoid overstretching.
Shoulder pain can be caused by old injuries or even carrying a heavy bag for too long. An extremely simple, but effective shoulder stretch: Allow yourself to naturally slouch forward, and then bring yourself upright, allowing your upper back to bend ever so slightly. Then, slouch again. Repeat this stretch a few more times, taking care to avoid strain.
When your knee is involved, moving around may be the last thing you want to do, but this stretch, which you’ll feel in your calves, can help: Use a wall to stabilize yourself with both hands. Position one of your knees in front of you, slightly bending it, while the other leg is straight behind you. Push against the wall while your heel remains on the ground, and your back straightened. Hold this for a moment, and then switch knees.
Improve hip pain by standing up straight, arms at your sides, and bringing one bent knee to the height of your hip. Then, proceed to raise your arms over your head, bringing your upper arms even with your ears. Slightly unbend your knee, and raise that leg behind you, also at the height of your hip, as your upper body is even with the floor. Hold this pose for a moment, and then bring your leg back to the first position. Do a few sets on one side of your body, before moving over to the other side.
Notice Your Results
When beginning a stretching routine, pay attention to how your body reacts to the stretches. Always adjust to the level that is comfortable for you, and which suits your needs.
Have you ever tried stretching to relieve your pain? If so, what are some of your tried and true stretches?
1Back Pain Facts and Statistics - American Chiropractic Association
2Low Back Pain Fact Sheet - National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke
3Muscle Strains - Healthline