Stretches

Move. Move. Move.  Did you know that you can prevent muscle pain and soreness that leads to injury by stretching daily?  Taking a break to stretch throughout your day only takes minutes and the results are amazing!  If you have a job where you do a lot of sitting, driving or any repetitive movements you need to learn a few of these stretches so that you can stay pain free.

Dr. Bryson or a staff member will probably teach you a few of these stretches while you are in the office.  But in case you want to review in the middle of the night or on the weekend we have them described in detail below.  Please click on the name of the stretch to be taken to the detailed description with a picture.

Please keep these things in mind when stretching: Each stretch below, unless otherwise noted, is meant to be performed several times throughout the day.  Each stretch should be held for 8-10 seconds, or the time it takes you to take 2 good deep breaths.  Always make sure you are breathing while you stretch; don’t hold your breath!

As with exercises or stretching routines, please consult your physician before you start a new work out regime.  And take note if any of the stretches that increase pain or produce radiating symptoms down the arms or legs; if this happens, stop and consult your health-care provider.

Now start stretching, and you will notice you don’t have to come see us as often.  Sure, we will miss you, but we will be happy to know you have Stopped Suffering & Started Living!!!


Neck/Upper Shoulder

Neck/Upper Shoulder: This stretch is designed to relieve tension in the neck and upper back region. It can be performed either sitting or standing.

  • Facing forward, slowly tilt your left ear to your left shoulder. Do not let your shoulder elevate.
  • Now look down slightly as though looking into a shirt pocket, bring your left hand over your head and place on your right ear.
  • Gently pull your head to the left. You should feel a stretch on the right side of your neck.
  • For added stretch, while gently pulling your head left, slowly push your right hand to the floor. This added stretch will increase the ‘pull’ but should not increase the pain.

Shoulders/Mid-Back

Shoulders/Mid-back:  This stretch is designed to help relieve that nagging mid-back and shoulder blade pain. It can be performed either sitting or standing.

  • Place right arm straight out in front of your body (approximately shoulder height). Make sure palm is facing up. Note: This is key to the stretch!
  • With left hand, reach across body and place it on underside of wrist. If this is too hard, the elbow may be grasped.
  • With the left hand, turn the right wrist & palm slightly outward.
  • Allow the left hand to pull the right arm across the body. Do not allow the right shoulder to elevate and do no turn your hips or neck.
  • The stretch will be felt in the right outer arm/shoulder and mid-back/shoulder blade region.
  • For an extra stretch, you can use a tennis ball. This must be done standing.
  • Facing away from the wall, place the tennis ball between the right shoulder blade and spine then lean back against the wall holding the tennis ball in place with the pressure of your body (butt should not be touching wall).
  • Mimic the above stretch and roll back & forth or up & down allowing the ball to massage the muscle. The amount of pressure will depend on how far your feet are away from the wall.

Overhead Stretch Sitting (mid-to-low back)

Overhead stretch sitting (mid-to-low back): This stretch is designed to relieve overall-all back tension from prolonged hours of sitting.

  • First, while sitting,  find the proper posture by bending forward as far as possible then arch back as far as possible. Now, find the happy medium between the two extremes. That is good sitting posture.
  • While in this good posture raise arms over your head. Either place palms together  or interlock fingers with palms facing the ceiling.
  • Reach hands toward the ceiling. Do not arch the back during the reaching process. The reach is to elevate the rib cage and lower back.
  • Keep this tension created by the reach and slowly lean (do not bend) to the right.
  • Each time before leaning, reset the tension by reaching upward.
  • This stretch can also be performed standing (do not arch back but instead reach to ceiling).
  • This stretch will be felt on the side and low back. If this stretch causes shoulder pain, perform the “sitting relief position” or  the “yoga twist” stretch as an alternative.

Sitting Relief Position (improves posture)

Sitting Relief Position (improve posture): This stretch is designed to help keep the shoulders back and down while relieving mid-to-upper back tension.

  • First, while sitting,  find the proper posture by bending forward as far as possible then arch back as far as possible. Now, find the happy medium between the two extremes. That is good sitting posture.
  • While in this good posture, allow both arms to hang down (relaxed).
  • Face palms forward (this is key).
  • Take a deep breath (try not to let shoulders elevate). As you breathe out, allow your shoulders to relax and go back & down.
  • Repeat 3-4 times. This stretch can also be performed while standing.

Hips sitting (hips & lower back)

Hips sitting (hips & lower back): This stretch is designed to help relieve outer hip and lower back tension. This stretch can also help sciatic-like pain.

  • First, while sitting,  find the proper posture by bending forward as far as possible then arch back as far as possible. Now, find the happy medium between the two extremes. That is good sitting posture.
  • While in this good posture, cross the right leg over the left (‘men-style’) making a 4 with your leg. The left leg should be at a 90-degree angle with your foot flat on the floor. If the stretch is too intense, slide your left foot forward and allow your right leg to cross your left in a lower spot (moving toward your ankle).
  • While sitting cross-legged, put your right hand on your right knee and very slightly push downward. You may feel a stretch in your right hip or low back.
  •  Now while holding this tension, lean forward.
  • Do not allow the low back to flex (bend). The chest should be kept up & out during this stretch.

Chest

Chest: This stretch is designed for the chest region, but it will also help improve posture and decrease neck/shoulder tension. This stretch is to be performed standing.

  • Standing next to an open doorway, place your right elbow and palm on the frame of the door (shoulder-width height and elbow and palm should be at 90 degrees).
  • Place your left foot slightly in front of your right foot (stagger step).
  • Now lean slightly forward. You may feel a stretch in your right chest region and shoulder region.
  • For added stretch, do not lean any further but rather push your right shoulder forward leaving your elbow and palm on the door frame. Do not let your shoulder elevate.
  • As the stretch becomes more comfortable, slowly move your elbow and palm up the door frame (above shoulder height.) This will increase the stretch slightly.

Chest (full arm)

Chest (Full arm):  This stretch is designed for the chest and forearm but if done correctly can also incorporate the lower neck. This stretch crosses multiple muscle groups effecting more than one region at a time. Great for chronic computer users!

  • Stand with your right shoulder touching the wall.
  • Take one shoulder-width step away from the wall.
  • Now put your feet together and turn both to a 45 degree angle toward the left. At this point, your entire body will be about a foot or two from the wall facing slightly left.
  • Place your palm (fingers facing downward) on the wall at approximately hip height.
  • At this point, you may feel a stretch in your chest, shoulder and/or arm. If so, stop and breathe.
  • If not, take another small step to your left, away from the wall and slowly move your hand up the wall keeping your palms down (do not elevate shoulder to raise the arm).
  • Once a stretch is felt, stop at that level and allow your head to lean toward the left shoulder (left ear going towards left shoulder but do not raise shoulder).

Note: Remember to face fingers toward the floor!.


Hip Slide (low back)

Hip Slide (low back):  This stretch is designed for the lateral (outside) side of the body, low back and outer hip.

  • Stand with your right shoulder touching the wall.
  • Take one shoulder-width step away from the wall.
  • Put your right hand against the wall at shoulder level. This hand is for stabilizing purposes.
  • Cross your right foot over the front of your left foot.
  • Raise your left arm over your head and reach toward the ceiling.
  • Slide your hips to the left (do not bend at the low back). For help on how to hip slide, picture a pole going through your hips and you are sliding along that pole.
  • For an added stretch, while reaching to the ceiling and sliding the hip, gently rotate your body forward.

Hamstrings (back of legs)

Hamstrings (back of legs): The stretch is designed  to help relieve low back pain by isolating the hamstrings. However, this stretch crosses multiple muscle groups effecting more than one region at a time. Great for chronic sitters!

  • First, while sitting, find the proper posture by bending forward as far as possible then arch back as far as possible. Now, find the happy medium between the two extremes. That is good sitting posture.
  • Sit in this posture toward the edge of the chair. Place your right leg straight out in front of you.
  • Now flex your foot, bringing your toes up toward the ceiling.  Keep this tension.
  • Now with chest lifted up, lean slightly forward (do not bend at the waist). You may feel the stretch in the low back, hamstrings or calf.
  • For a different stretch, but targeting the same muscle groups, do the same things as above but slightly turn your flexed right foot inward (with toes up — point them in toward the middle).
  • This stretch can (and should be) performed while standing as well.
  • Facing forward, place your right foot (heel) on something (stool/chair, etc..) that is approximately knee height (the greater the height — the more intense the stretch).
  • Now flex your foot, bringing your toes up (what I call ‘toes-to-nose’).  Keep this tension.
  • Now with chest lifted up, lean slightly forward (do not bend at the waist). You may feel the stretch in the low back, hamstrings or calf.

Quadriceps (front of legs)

Quadriceps (front of legs): This stretch is designed for the front of the leg and is great for chronic sitters.

    • Stand with your right shoulder touching the wall.
    • Take one shoulder-width step away from the wall. Put your right hand against the wall shoulder-width height. This hand is for stabilizing purposes.
    • With you left hand grasp your left ankle and bring your heel to your butt (picture sticking your heel into your back pocket).
    • The key to this stretch is to not excessively arch the back. Some arching will occur, but it should be limited.
    • With your heel at your back pocket area, slide your left hip forward (again, picture a pole as in the hip-slide stretch).
    • Do not pull your left leg back or bring your left knee backward. The knee should move minimally allowing the hip to move forward.
    • If this is too difficult or bothers your knee; you can do this stretch on the floor or with the aid of a table/chair/couch that is approximately knee to thigh height.
    • Stand with your right leg next to the table (or whatever you will use).
    • Place your right knee on the table with your lower leg resting on the table behind.
    • Slowly move (helps ensure balance) your left foot forward a foot or two.
    • In this staggered step position, slowly push (slide) the right hip forward.
    • Again, avoid arching the back as much as possible.

Yoga Twist (Low back & hips)

Yoga Twist (Low back and hips): This stretch is designed to help relieve stiffness and/or pain in the low back region. This stretch is great before bed-time and prior to getting out of bed in the morning.

  • While lying on your back, bring your knees to a 45 degree angle (keeping feet on floor). Allow the head and rest of back to relax into floor.
  • Place arms out to your side with your palms up.
  • Bring knees together but do not squeeze inner thighs to do this; legs should remain relaxed.
  • While breathing normally, slowly allow both legs to rotate right as far as you can.  It is okay if the hips come off the floor. You may feel a stretch in the low back or outer hip but this should not be painful.
  • Then slowly rotate to the opposite side. Repeat 8-10 times.
  • After this, cross the left leg over the right (like a lady crossing her legs). Allow the left leg to pull the right knee towards the left. Continue to slightly pull until you feel a stretch.
  • Once the stretch is felt, take a deep breath and as you slowly exhale, allow the right knee to sink deeper into the stretch. Repeat with 2 more deep breaths.
  • Bring legs back to original position and repeat on the opposite side.

Cat-Camel (overall spinal motion)

Cat Camel (overall spinal motion): This stretch is designed to help with overall flexibility and is also the #1 stretch/exercise for pregnancy. This stretch can be done even when someone has acute low back pain. This stretch is performed on the floor (preferably carpet or yoga mat).

  • Get on all fours with hands and knees shoulder-width apart.
  • Hands should be directly under shoulders and knees should be directly under hips. If this posture hurts the wrist, make a fist and put knuckles on the ground allowing the wrist to be straight.
  • Once in the proper starting position, slowly lower your belly button to the floor by allowing the pelvis to rock down (forward).
  • While the low back is arching (cat), allow the head to come up trying to look at the ceiling causing extension between the shoulder blades. This allows the whole body to be involved.
  • Do this slowly and hold the stretch for 10-20 seconds. A stretch may or may not be felt in the low back, mid back or abdomen. This does not mean it is not working. This activity is more about mobility and flexibility.
  • Now reverse the motion by bringing the belly button toward the ceiling creating a hump with your back (camel) allow your pelvis to rock up (backward) and allow your head to drop down to look at the floor or between your legs. Do this slowly and hold for 10-20 seconds. (don’t forget to breath!)
  • Repeat this motion 15-30 times one or two times per day.

Ball Extension (improves posture & increases flexibility)

Ball Extension (improves posture & increases flexibility):  This stretch is designed to reverse chronic sitting posture (flexion), increase flexibility and balance.

  • A stability (i.e. exercise or pregnancy) ball will be used. The stability ball needs to be the proper height for your body. (When you sit on the ball; your knees should be parallel or slightly lower than parallel with the floor.  Your knees should not be above your hips.)
  • Sit on the stability ball facing forward with your feet shoulder width apart. Note: Put you feet farther apart for maximum stability.  Put your feet closer together for a greater balance challenge. Also, if this activity is done on carpet or hardwood floors, do not wear socks as it may cause you to slip/fall off the ball.
  • With your feet spread to the desired width, slowly walk your feet forward allowing your pelvis to roll down the ball. It may feel like you will fall but the pressure of your back on the ball allows you to maintain contact and support.
  • Allow your low back to stay in contact with the ball.  Your pelvis should not be lifted up. Your pelvis should be dropped down at this point.
  • Slowly lean backward allowing your mid-back and neck to contact the ball — what I call ‘becoming-one-with-the-ball.’
  • Allow your arms to drop to your side.
  • Face palms upward and spread your fingers apart. This will incorporate many muscle groups.
  • Take a deep breath and relax. Allow your body to sink further into the ball.
  • Take another breath and move your arms slightly upward (toward your head not the ceiling). Repeat this motion 3-4 times.
  • If this posture aggravates or causes neck pain, place one or both hands behind your head/neck for support.
  • To get up, slowly raise your head supporting your neck with your hands and then mid-back off the ball; then walk your feet toward the ball allowing the pressure of the low back against the ball to help propel you into a forward sitting position.
  • Repeat 2-3 times or as needed.

YTWL (improve posture & shoulder mobility)

YTWL (improve posture & shoulder mobility):  This exercise is aimed at not only at increasing shoulder mobility but reduces neck tension while working those often neglected ‘back muscles’ that help postural integrity. You should feel this exercise mostly n-between and/or just below your shoulder blades NOT in the neck or upper shoulders.  Remember to breathe normally as you progress through the steps. To view this exercise, click here.

    • Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Keep your eyes looking forward with head in a neutral position. Raise hands over head to create a ‘Y’ with your arms. In this position, contract (squeeze) your shoulder blades back and down. Do not allow your shoulders to elevate.
    • While continuing to squeeze the shoulders back and down, transition your arms into a ‘T’ position. Squeeze the shoulder blades together but do not allow your shoulders to elevate.
    • While continuing to contract the muscles, transition your arms into a ‘W’ position.
    • While continuing to contract the muscles, transition your arms into an ‘L’ position.
    • Hold each position for 8-12 seconds. Repeat often!

YTWL

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