Years of sports related injuries, everyday life, and just plain inactivity can slowly cause you to tighten up and lose range of motion all over your body. One of the most common areas of the body for this to happen is the lower back/trunk area.
This decrease in mobility around the torso can happen suddenly after an acute injury to the lower back or it can happen very gradually from small repeated micro injuries. Either way the result is the same; scar tissue builds up in muscle tissue, ligaments and tendons cause those tissues movements to be restricted which in turn leads to an overall restriction in the body’s ability to move. The longer this limitation persists, the more likely it is that new injuries occur causing an even further restriction of movement.
That is where these stretches come in. This is a basic set of stretches focused on the most common areas of movement restriction with the specific intention of diminishing the scar tissue that causes the limited range of motion. Each stretch is intended to be held for 30 seconds, however if you are particularly tight you may want to hold the position for up to a full minute to see results more quickly.
When starting this routine you will want to do it 2-3 times per day, everyday for a week or until you feel as though you have gained the flexibility that you want. Once you have reached your desired flexibility do this routine two to three times per week to make sure you maintain your flexibility; it is a great companion to any core (abs, back, obliques) exercise routine.
If you are currently suffering from a back injury this routine may be able to help you recover more quickly but as always you should always ask you doctor or health care provider about whether or not it is appropriate for you and your specific injury or condition.
The following is a description of each stretch and roughly where you should be feeling it (various people will feel the same stretch in slightly different areas, specific to there own individual body’s past injuries).
Seated Toe Touch: Probably almost everyone has done this stretch at some point in their lives. You simply sit on the floor, extend your legs out straight in front of you and without bending your knees, reach down to your feet as far as you can. You should primarily feel this stretch in the back of your leg and knee, as well as your butt, lower back and possibly your calves. You can intensify this stretch by flexing your toes back towards your shins.
Deep Glute Stretch: This is a great stretch for those suffering from sciatica. Pull your right leg up so that it is resting on your left knee/thigh then pull your left thigh in towards you being sure to only grab your thigh and not your shin. You should feel this stretch in your right leg deep into your butt and hip area as well as in your lower back area; you may also feel it along the side/back of your thigh. When you switch sides you will feel it on the opposite leg.
Prone Torso Twist: This motion is intended to increase your rotational range of motion; basically increasing your ability to rotate around your torso. Lie on your back and lay both legs off to one side so that your thighs are perpendicular to your torso and your knees are stacked. Be sure you keep your shoulders flat against the ground and turn your head in the opposite direction that you lay your legs. You should feel this all around your torso and possibly up into your rib cage. You may also feel this in the outside thigh of the top leg.
Cobra Stretch: This is based off of a yoga stretch that focuses on tight abdominal muscles as to reduce the tension that those muscles put on your back. Lay face down on the ground and place your hands back by the base of your rib cage. Slowly press into your hands arching your chest up and back as well as tilting your chin up towards the ceiling. You should feel this throughout your stomach area, the front of your hips and possibly the front of your thighs. You may also have a stretching feeling in your lower back. Just be sure not to push this stretch too far or move into it too quickly.
Shell Stretch: This stretch is used in both yoga and Pilates to target the upper and lower back. Sit back on your heels and place your hands just outside your knees. Round forward pulling your shoulders to your hips at the same time as pushing your shoulders back towards your hips by pushing your palms down on the ground and forward away from you - don’t let your hands actually move. You will feel this stretch in your lower back from the top of your hips to the base of your rib cage and slightly less intensely in your upper back from the base of your rib cage up through your neck.