Sandra Chaloux

| 10/13/2016

Stretching to Relieve Low Back Pain

Stretching to Relieve Low Back Pain

My time of ignoring stretching has ended. It happened when I returned from my beach trip this September. While on my vacation, with my Fitbit on, I religiously logged in over 10,000 steps a day on the beach without a lick of stretching. On the last day of my trip, I bent over to turn on the water faucet to remove sand from my feet and it felt like something popped in my lower back. I was in excruciating pain when I tried to stand back up. I was in severe pain for the rest of that day, during the ride back home, and for several weeks afterward.

This doesn’t seem fair on some levels, right? Here I was trying to get my movement in each day for a week, which resulted in a 3-week set-back on the other side including twice a week chiropractor appointments, a new stretching routine, and icing down my back, just to be pain-free.

What I learned is that I was in serious need of a flexibility tune-up. This seems so odd to me because when I was in elementary school I did gymnastics and I could do the splits either way with no problem at all. However, in recent years, I have noticed that my hamstrings were always tight and I routinely experienced low back pain. Stretching was really painful for me, so I skipped it most of the time.

There is a similar story in the October Prevention magazine by Ginny Graves. Ginny interviews David Behm, a professor of sports medicine at Memorial University of Human Kinetics and Recreation, and asked him if a long-time non-stretcher can actually become more limber. His response: “We’ve looked at all age groups, and after a month of doing 10 minutes of stretching 3 days a week, our study subjects increase their range of motion 10-30%. This is significant enough to make a difference in how you feel and move.”

A pretty good return on investment, isn’t it? After a few weeks of stretching, I am now noticing less tight hamstrings, and my lower back pain is gone, and I’m not stiff when I move. It feels awesome!

I’m going to share the stretching routine that my chiropractor, Dr. Alex McMinn, recommended for the lower body. He allowed me to videotape him demonstrating proper form for the stretches. My phone was acting up during the videotaping but I was able to get a few video clips of his demonstration to share with you.

Calf muscles We start with stretching the calf muscles. I do this by propping my foot up against the wall, balls of the feet on the wall, heel on the floor and hold it for 1 minute per side. (3 sets on both sides).

Thigh muscles Next we stretch the front and back of the thigh (hamstring). He emphasizes the need for mild to moderate stretches (not forcing it). The hamstring stretch is lifting your leg up on a bench or raised surface, squaring your hips, lifting up your chest, and only leaning forward as much as needed to feel the stretch. He emphasizes, that you are not trying to bend forward and reach your toes with your hands. You hold the stretch for 45 seconds to 1 minute (3 sets on each side). Stretching the front of the thigh, you are facing away from the bench or raised surface, lifting your foot onto the surface, and leaning slightly backward as you feel the stretch in the belly of the front thigh. Again each stretch is 1 minute on each side. (3 sets).

Hips Next, is stretching the hips –front and back. First, sitting in a chair, lift your foot onto your other knee, you can lean forward slightly if you need to to feel the stretch in the back of your hip. Do this for 1 minute each side (3 sets). The next stretch is to do a kneeling lunge. One knee is on the floor and the other foot is on the floor in front, (lunge), square the pelvic area and lift your chest up. This stretch you may feel in the glutes, hips, and thighs. (1 minute both sides, 3 sets).

I think you will notice significant relief from back pain, muscle pain and stiffness, if you can do this daily or at least 3 times a week. I’d love to hear how this works for you.

Alex McMinn is the owner of the Potomac Family & Sports Chiropractic Center in Sterling, VA. Dr. Alex has a B.S. in Sports Medicine and his Doctorate of Chiropractic from Life Chiropractic College! He has 20 years of experience treating athletes and their families all over Northern Virginia and was the Team Chiropractor for the Washington Redskins for several years.


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