Do you suffer from back pain?  A spine doctor shares the stretch she does every day for relief

The pandemic wasn’t good for our lower backs.

A Gallup poll conducted in January found that 56% of American employees “always” or “sometimes” worked from home, while another poll found that 18% of Americans said their days in 2020 would be more than seven Sitting for hours every day.

As a result, more and more people are sitting in front of computers, working in suboptimal and makeshift home offices. Sitting in poor posture for hours can put pressure on the spine and joints.

And most laptop and phone uses involve bending over in a turtle-like position with our neck and head rounded forward. This can contribute to lower back pain as it puts pressure on the intervertebral discs that cushion our vertebrae.

Good posture, movement and ergonomics of the workplace (adapting a workplace to the individual needs of your body) are the keys to preventing back pain. But as a sports medicine specialist specializing in spinal injuries, I always tell my patients that frequent stretching is just as important.

Below is one of my favorite super easy daily stretches that I can do to prevent or relieve lower back pain. (Keep in mind that this may not be for everyone. If you have any physical condition or health concerns, check with your doctor or physical therapist first.)

Extension of the lower back while standing

Zoom In Icon Arrows pointing outwards

Extension of the lower back while standing

Source: The University of Washington Medical Center Sports Institute

I love this stretch because it helps relieve pressure on the intervertebral discs that are under pressure from long periods of sitting. You can do it three to four times a day, or whenever your back feels tight or sore.

Here’s how:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your head and shoulders neutral and relaxed.
  2. Place your hands on your pelvis or on your hips.
  3. Keep your knees straight as you slowly and gently extend your spine in a slight backward arch (think of this as a small standing back bend).
  4. Hold the position for five to ten seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat this five times, trying to stretch a little further each time.

Add a simple change

You can get more out of this back stretch by adding chest movement.

Zoom In Icon Arrows pointing outwards

Source: The University of Washington Medical Center Sports Institute

Instead of putting your hands on your hips, put your arms and hands right above your head. Or put your hands behind your head (with your elbows to the side). Then carry out steps 3 to 4 as described above.

This modification can help open tight chest muscles, prevent the shoulder from buckling, and straighten the upper spine. You can also do this stretch while seated by gently stretching your upper back over the chair.

The importance of stretching and moving

It is also wise to add physical activity to your day. The goal is to interrupt longer periods of sitting and get on your feet. Physical inactivity can lead to stiffness in our joints and muscles (hence the saying “exercise is lotion”).

Even standing and taking a break to stretch or walk around the room every 20 to 30 minutes can do wonders, such as improving blood flow, studies show.

Consider setting reminders on your phone to get up from your desk, or try adding more standing or walking meetings to your work day.

Dr. Cindy Lin, MD, is Associate Director of Clinical Innovation for the Sports Institute at the University of Washington Medical Center and Associate Professor of Sports and Spinal Medicine in the Rehabilitation Medicine Department. Dr. Lin earned her MD from Harvard Medical School. Her research includes biotech innovations, spinal and musculoskeletal injuries, and sports injury prevention. She has written for HealthDay and UW Medicine, along with several other health and medical publications. Follow her on Twitter @CindyLinMD.

Do not miss: