The weather’s going to be gettig nice shortly and if you’re like many of us, you’ve gotten involved in some activities that were either new to you or you hadn’t done since last summer. Hopefully you’ve been following the advice of your health care team, as well as my recommendations before, during and after participating in these activities. I also hope you’ve been enjoying yourself. Unfortunately, many times when we begin new activities or revisit others from the past, we may experience stiffness and/or pain in the muscles and joints. One of the areas hardest hit by the summer or weekend activist is the back. This month, I’d like to give you some tips on how to prevent and deal with back pain.
- Cardiovascular – you know this one: continuous movement of the large muscle groups for 20–60 minutes a day, 3-6 days a week.
- Strength – my favorite. Safely perform 1 set of 8-12 repetitions against resistance, for each major muscle group, until another properly formed repetition is impossible. Strength training should take 10-30 minutes a day and should be done 2-3 days per week.
- Flexibility – After a brief cardiovascular warm up, the muscle is placed in a stretched position and held for 15-30 seconds. Stretching should be done for each major muscle and should consist of a minimum of 3, 15-30 second stretches per muscle.
If you’ve been consistent with your workouts, your aches and pains should be minimal. However, if you haven’t been working out regularly, or you’ve started a new sport, you may be experiencing back pain. To reduce aches and pains, start or continue the 3 steps listed above and add the following back stretches to your program.
The Stretches (performed after a 3-5-minute warm-up)
When stretching, your goal should be to slowly stretch the muscle to the point of pain and then ease off so you end up just at the edge of pain. You should feel a stretch, not pain. Each stretch should be held (DO NOT BOUNCE) for 15-30 seconds and be repeated 3 or more times per session. Be sure to check with your health care team before implementing the following stretches.
- Good Morning Exercise – This exercise will warm you up and stretch you out. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, hands on your head and slowly bend (bow) forward at the waist. Go only as far as you comfortably can, then return to an upright position and repeat. Lower 4 seconds – don’t hold this one. Perform 5-15 repetitions.
- Seated Toe Touch – Sitting on a semi-hard surface (floor, mat, grass, etc.), legs straight and together, back straight, slowly reach your hands as far down your legs as possible. Hold 15-30 seconds and repeat. Areas stretched: back of the legs, hips and low back.
- Lying Back Stretch – Lie on your back, body flat on the floor (mat, grass, etc.), raise one leg and grab it under the knee and pull towards your chest. Hold 15-30 seconds. Alternate legs until each has been stretched 3 or more times. At this point, you can grab both legs at once and repeat the procedure. Areas stretched: back of the legs, hips and low back.
- Cross Body Arm Pull – From a standing or seated position, reach across the body and grab behind the elbow of one arm with your other hand, keeping the back straight, pull the arm across the body as far as possible, and hold for 15-30 seconds. Alternate arms until each arm has been stretched 3 or more times. Areas stretched: back of the arms and upper back muscles.
- Chest Stretch – Position your body perpendicular to a wall, raise your arm straight out from the body until the hand is flat against the wall. Don’t lean hard against the wall, just enough to keep the palm flat, look away from the wall. Hold 15-30 seconds, alternate arms, do each 3 or more times. Areas stretched: chest, neck, front of the shoulders, hand, wrist and arm.
There you have it, 5 stretches that will help prevent, reduce & eliminate back pain. Do these stretches daily (along with strength training & cardiovascular exercise), especially before & after participating in your summer activities and you’ll safely & painlessly enjoy your summer!!!
*if all else fails call Fitness Pros for the correct massage and bodywork therapy to get you through your summer aches/pains!
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