A Harvard-trained sports medicine doctor shares the ‘super easy’ stretch she does every day to relieve lower back pain
Originally posted on CNBC Make It
The pandemic has not been kind to our lower backs.
A Gallup poll conducted in January found that 56% of American employees were “always” or “sometimes” working from home, while another survey found that 18% of Americans said they added more than seven hours of daily sitting time to their days in 2020.
As a result, more people are hunched over computers, working in suboptimal and makeshift home offices. Sitting hours at a time in poor posture can increase pressure on the spine and joints.
And most laptop and phone use involve us hunching in a turtle-like posture with our neck and head rounding forward. This can contribute to lower back pain because the discs that cushion our spinal vertebrae are strained.
Good posture, exercise and workstation ergonomics (fitting a workstation to your body’s unique needs) are key to preventing back pain. But, as a sports medicine physician who specializes 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 to do as a way to help prevent or relieve lower back pain. (Keep in mind that this might not be for everyone. If you have a physical condition or health concerns, consult with your doctor or physical therapist first.)
Standing lower back extension stretch
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your head and shoulders neutral and relaxed.
- Place your hands on top of your pelvis, or on your hips.
- Keep your knees straight as you slowly and gently extend your spine in a slight backward arc (think of it as a small standing backbend).
- Hold the position for five to 10 seconds, then slowly return to the starting upright position.
- Repeat five times, and aim to extend slightly farther each time.
Add a simple modification
You can get more out of this back stretch by adding a chest movement.
The importance of stretching and moving
It’s also smart to add physical activity to your day. The goal is to break up prolonged sitting time and get on your feet. Physical inactivity can cause stiffness in our joints and muscles (hence the saying “motion is lotion”).
Even standing and taking a break to stretch or walk around the room every 20 to 30 minutes can do wonders, like improving blood circulation, studies show.
Consider setting reminders on your phone to get up from your desk or try incorporating more standing or walking meetings into your workday.