Spines play a critical supporting role in standing, moving, bending and twisting. Most of our weight bearing and body movements take place where the lumbar spine meets the pelvis. Therefore a strong and stable back would be very beneficial. Spine stability requires the involvement of all the muscles in the torso to prevent low back injuries and support and protect the spine. Exercises can be performed to strengthen our muscles, minimizing the load placed the spine, preventing pain.

Why do we need a strong back?

The back can be described as having three different layers: the outer layer, the middle layer and the deep layer.

The large, thick and long muscles that are found just below the skin make up the outer layer. This layer assists in straightening up from a bent position, moving from lying on our back to sitting up and lifting heavy objects. These muscles are used daily and tend to be very stable. Traditional back and abdominal exercises strengthen this layer.

The middle layer contains various muscles that provide the majority of our stability. This stability is responsible for keeping our low back working effectively and without pain. This layer prevents excessive range of motion, therefore preventing injury.

The deep layer consists of the spine and spinal discs, as well as ligaments and tiny muscles that attach each vertebrae. This layer is responsible for stabilizing the spinal column and providing the brain with information about joints and each vertebrae. Through everyday exercise, the deep layer is not being stabilized.

Four Back Stretches to Improve Mobility

When we imagine someone with back pain we may think of someone who has suffered a sports-related injury or car accident. But more often than not, it’s the day-to-day activities that produce tension and tightness resulting in backache.

A healthy and flexible back not only depends on the health of its primary muscles but also on surrounding muscles and areas of the body. The following stretches will help you build and maintain a healthy back. These stretches cover the major muscle groups and joints, starting with the shoulders and moving down to the hips.

Standing or kneeling with your feet hip width apart and maintaining neutral spine, hold a stretch band or yoga strap wider than shoulder width apart. If your shoulders are more flexible, try bringing your hands closer together.

From this position, raise the band over your head without bending at the elbows or arching the low back. Keep moving your arms back, bringing them down behind your back until your hands are close to or near your hips, then reverse the circle back to the starting point.

Continue back and forth 5-10 times, inhaling as you raise your arms towards the ceiling and exhaling as you move them over your head and behind you. You  should  feel a slight pull on your shoulders but the pain should not be unbearable.

Shoulder Mobility Stretch

In a seated position or kneeling, bring your right arm straight up over your head. Bend at the elbow letting your right hand come down past your neck. Now bring your left arm to your side and bend at the elbow, reaching your left hand up the spine, facing outward. Try to reach your two hands towards one another until they touch or clasp. If the hands can’t touch that just means there’s tightness in the shoulders, triceps, and chest. You can easily modify this stretch using a strap or stretch band. Take 5 to  10 deep breaths in this pose before switching sides.

Reach Behind Stretch
Reach Behind Stretch

This is a great stretch for the chest and front of the shoulders. Begin by facing an open doorway. Keep your elbows bent at 90° with your arms raised to shoulder height. Rest your hands and forearms against the door jamb.

Lean forward slightly and you should feel a stretch across your chest. Hold for 5 to 10 deep breaths.

Doorway Lean Stretch

Begin in table top position on your hands and knees, with your wrists, elbows and shoulders in one line and your knees underneath the hips  with your toes curled under. As you inhale, lift your head and tailbone and gently drop the belly button towards the floor. Making sure the shoulders are away from your ears as you lift. This is cow pose. As you exhale, round your back, tuck your chin into your  chest. This is cat pose. Continue the flow as you inhale to come into cow pose and exhale into cat.

Cat and Cow Pose

There are many layers of muscles in your lower back which help to  move your body in different directions. The muscles along either side of your spine start at the back of your  skull and go all the way down to the pelvis. To properly stretch these muscles before doing any back-intensive workouts, try  the  Lower Back Flexion Stretch. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. One at a time hug each knee to the chest or grasp both knees together and pull them to your chest. Hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times.

Lower Back Flexion Stretch

If any of the stretches cause pain or if you can’t complete them because of existing pain, don’t push yourself. Consult a chiropractor to see if these stretches are right for you! A chiropractor will assess, diagnose and develop a treatment plan for your recovery.