Back pain will affect an estimated 80% of Americans. The degree and duration vary. Stretching and exercises may help to reduce the risk of developing back problems by strengthening the core muscles in the back and abdomen to support the spine.
The spine has three natural curves. Maintaining the natural alignment of these curves assists with cushioning and stabilizing the spine and protects the delicate neurological system within the spine. The collaborative goal of the DOC physical therapists and the orthopedic spine specialists is to decrease pain, restore function, increase strength, and normalize spinal alignment. DOC PT helps guests learn the proper techniques to maintain a neutral spine and customizes an appropriate stretching and exercise program based on each guest’s clinical diagnosis, flexibility and severity of pain.
Neck and Spine Stretches
Stretching helps to keep muscles and ligaments flexible and prepares the muscles for aerobics or sports. Stretching should be done before and after a workout to prevent muscle strain and soreness. Hold each stretch for 10 to 20 seconds. Repeat 2 to 5 times per day every day.
Chin to Chest and Ear to Shoulder
Gently bend the head forward, bringing the chin toward the chest until a stretch is felt in the back of the neck. Bend the neck to one side as if to touch the ear to the shoulder until a stretch is felt in the side of the neck.
Knee to Chest Stretch
Lie on the back with the knees bent and both heels on the floor. Place both hands behind one knee and pull it toward the chest.
Kneeling Lunge Stretch
Starting on both knees, move one leg forward so the foot is flat on the ground, keeping weight evenly distributed. Place both hands on the top of the thigh and gently lean the body forward to feel a stretch in the front of the other leg.
Lie on the floor with the knees bent and feet on the floor. Find the neutral spine position. Slowly straighten one leg and lift the heel toward the ceiling while supporting the back of the thigh with both hands. Repeat with the other leg.
Light Back and Spine Exercises
Low-impact, aerobic, conditioning exercises done in a controlled progressive manner help to heal existing issues, prevent future problems, alleviate stiffness, improve mobility, and relieve pain. Discuss with the DOC physical therapist the number of days per week to exercise. Repeat each exercise 5 to 10 times or as directed by PT.
Lie on the floor with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten abdominal muscle and pull the lower back to the floor. Hold 10 seconds.
Lie on the floor with knees bent and arms relaxed to the sides. Find the neutral spine position. Slowly raise buttocks until the body is straight from the knees to shoulders. Hold the bridge for 10 seconds and slowly lower.
Lie on one side with lower arm bent under head and upper arm resting with hand on floor near chest. Bend both knees and flex hips with neutral spine position. Slowly raise upper leg 8 to 10 inches and lower. Switch legs and repeat.
Maintain a healthy weight to avoid putting extra pressure on the spine and lower back. Be aware of proper posture standing, sitting and lifting things to keep the spine healthy and pain-free. For more information on posture, go to Posture Perfect DOC blog.
If non-surgical treatments fail to alleviate a guest’s pain and everyday activities are difficult or impossible, it may be time to further consult with DOC’s orthopedic spine surgeon. The surgeon will check for an anatomic cause of the pain that can be seen on an MRI or CT scan. Based on the results, the surgeon and guest will discuss options for relief.
To learn more about neck and spine conditions treated by DOC, please visit our services page: