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How To Alleviate Back Pain

Updated on January 12, 2011

As a person who suffers from chronic back pain (and at a pretty young age), I’ve done my share of research on how to stamp out the aches and irritation that plague me constantly. I’ve gone to chiropractors, done some yoga, learned about various stretches and whatnot. This article is here to give you some perspective on the stretches that you can do to help alleviate some of that back pain. Whether it be lower or upper, severe aches or minor, these exercises have the potential to eventually relieve the sensations you feel in your back. These are the stretches that were most effective for me, and they have a good chance of doing the same for you.

Please note, however, that simply doing these exercises once or twice a week isn’t going to do much for you in the long run. If you want to get rid of your back pain, you need to carry out these exercises continuously, and be dedicated. Miracles won’t happen overnight, your body needs time to adjust and feel better. Dedication is key, and patience is a virtue.

Stretch 1: The Cat Stretch

This stretch is great for lengthening your spinal column and stretching out your back. Try doing this stretch when you wake up and also when you go to bed at night. Get on all fours, preferably on a flat surface like the floor, with your hands firmly planted flat and shoulder-length apart. Inhale deeply and curve your spine upwards, like a cat does, making sure to bring your head downwards and your tailbone inwards. Imagine you are attempting to bring your tailbone inwards and make sure your hands stay flat on the floor. After a few seconds of this, exhale and then lift your head up, curving your spine inwards, and letting your tailbone lift up, and your spine curve downwards. Repeat about ten or fifteen times, always remembering to inhale when curving upwards, and exhaling when curving downwards. Do this slowly, and with caution. There is a possibility that your back muscles may be tight, and carelessly rushing through stretches can rip or damage them. Take it slow and take your time.

Stretch 2: Super Stretch

This one is pretty simple. While either standing or sitting, interlock your fingers together or put your hands above your head and stretch as far as you can. If you are lying on the floor, try to stretch your toes down, and your hands up, holding this position for about fifteen to twenty seconds. Repeat. Do this a few times and then let your body rest. No need to go overboard, three or four times of this stretch and you should be good to go onto the next one. 

Stretch 3: Downwards Stretch

This stretch can be a little painful, especially if you have tight back muscles like me. This is why you need to do this stretch very slowly, taking your time to make sure you don’t hurt yourself by going too far. Stand up straight, with your feet together on the floor. Put both hands behind your head (as if you were getting arrested) and slowly bend down, making sure to gently push your head forward so your neck tilts. You should feel your lower back stretching and your neck should be tucked in close towards your chest. Hold this position for about 3-5 seconds and then repeat about five to ten times. Also, if you start feeling pain, try to loosen your push on the head, or just stop and try a different stretch. 

Stretch 4: The Yawn

This stretch is also very simple. Stand straight, with your legs apart, but firmly planted on the ground. Put both of your hands behind your neck, as if cradling your head. Tilt your head back and at the same time, lean your body backwards slowly, bending your spine. Do not go too far, hold the position when you feel your muscles stretching and hold it for a few seconds. Then ease yourself back into the starting pose and repeat up to five times. 

Stretch 5: The Cobra

This stretch is wonderful for lengthening your spine and also alleviating some neck pain. Lying flat on your stomach (preferably on the floor) put your hands right near the sides of your chest. Make sure your feet are together and then push up with your arms, curving your spine downwards and pointing your chin towards the ceiling (or sky, if you’re outside) Pretend that you are trying to stretch your head as far as you can upwards, pushing your body as far up was possible with your arms. Hold this position for a few seconds and then return to the starting pose, inhaling as you do so. Exhale slowly when you go back up, and repeat this up to ten times. 

Stretch 6: Neck Roll

For people with neck pain, sit in a chair or on the floor with your back straight and erect. Slowly rotate your neck in circles, going through the full range of motion that your head is capable of. You should feel some cricks and creaks. After a while, stop and go in the opposite direction, taking your time to move your head in a full circle. DO NOT crack your neck afterwards. Cracking your neck can put your back out of alignment and can cause you problems later. If your neck cracks during this stretch, that is fine, but do not force your head to go side to side too hard. Simply let your head roll in circles and continue to do this for a few minutes. After that, you are done. 

Stretch 7: Toe Touches

One of the simplest stretches ever invented, stand straight with both legs together and facing forward. Slowly bend your upper body down, doing your best to keep your back straight as possible. Try to touch your toes with both hands. Hold this position (go as far as you can go without pain) and then go back up. Repeat this exercise roughly fifteen to twenty times and then call it quits. Also note, if your hamstrings are too tight, this exercise might help loosen those muscles up as well. 

Tips and Useful Advice

Well there you have it, seven stretches that, if done continuously on a daily basis (at least once or twice a day), should help alleviate some of your back aches. You don’t need to do all seven, just go ahead and pick out three or four of them and do those, and then the next day, alternate. In addition to these stretches, here are some useful tips on how to avoid more back pain.

Tip 1: WATER

I can’t stress enough on how important water is. Not only does it clean out our organs and assist our immune system, but it also lubricates our joints, which can help halt irritation in your bones. Not getting enough water a day can be part of the reason you wince and groan from back problems.

Tip 2: POSTURE

It’s amazing how many people slouch or hunch their shoulders nowadays. Not only can this lead to major back problems later in life, but by doing this you are putting your back in an awkward position, and this can ultimately be causing you pain. Do your best to keep your back straight and your chest out when sitting or standing, and don’t slouch. If you have an office job, try to do some neck rolls when your back begins to ache. Here and there, just do what you can to help take some of the weight off your spine.

Tip 3: EXERCISE

Not active? This can be a big reason why your body and back hurts. By exercising, you are keeping your muscles warm and active, allowing them to stretch and become stronger. If you are a person who stays at home, constantly sitting, standing, or lying down, your muscles can become very tight. Trust me, my chiropractor told me how tight my muscles were. When your muscles become tight, such as in your back, they constrict your vertebrae, not allowing them to move much, and this can cause them to become unaligned. By being more active, you can loosen the muscles in your body and ultimately save yourself a trip to your local back surgeon.

Tip 4: ABDOMINALS

Did you know strengthening your core muscles is one very effective way of strengthening your back? By doing sit-ups and crunches on a weekly basis and strengthening your abs, you can alleviate a lot of you back pain. Most people suffer from back aches because they don’t have a very strong core. When your core is weak, your back muscles take most of the heat, and this can be bad when you lift things or bend too much. Exercising your stomach will help you avoid further injury and pain in the future.

Tip 5: SHOES

The shoes you’re wearing could be playing a big factor in your back problems. Everyone’s feet are different, and the way that you step and stand can put your back out of alignment. Your shoes may be causing you to stand in an awkward position, and by doing this, your back is thrown out of alignment and susceptible to injury. Talk to a foot doctor about shoes that are good for your back, or try to buy inserts that go easier on your feet.  

Tip 6: PILLOWS

Big, bulky pillows can be a reason your back hurts as well. When you sleep with a pillow, your neck is bent at an angle, and stays this way for almost the entire night. This is a very bad position to put yourself in. It is recommended that you actually sleep without a pillow, as this will keep your neck and spine straight the entire night, and will help you avoid neck and back issues in the morning. But if you can’t sleep without a pillow, try searching for thinner or less bulky pillows. The bigger the pillow, the further your neck has to bend, and this can cause you problems later. 

Back pain can come at any age, and it isn’t pleasant. By doing what you can to be healthier and more active, you can save yourself years of pain and suffering in the future. These exercises are here to help you get rid of your back problems, but are not for people with serious back issues. If you have serious back issues, then I suggest you go to a back doctor or chiropractor and talk with them about options. But if you just feel a bit of tension in your back and pain that ensues, try your best to carry out these stretches once a day, and for at least ten to fifteen minutes. Also try to get more water and become more active. It’s your body and you owe it to yourself to try. The best of luck to all of you, and don’t forget to stay dedicated. 

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    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      I sleep with a neck roll only. A small one placed at the neck when you sleep on your side will help our neck stay aligned with your spine. It helps a lot. I suffer from lower back pain still. My Dr. told me it was from having large babies. 8 and 9 lb babies pulling on your back will cause future problems also.

    • Syrusv37 profile image
      Author

      Anthony 6 years ago

      Thanks fdoleac! Glad I could help.

    • fdoleac profile image

      fdoleac 6 years ago from Hollis, New Hampshire

      Great informative Hub! Bookmarked as a reference.

    • Syrusv37 profile image
      Author

      Anthony 6 years ago

      Thank you Susan. I have a lot of back pain so I figured I'd share these tips with everyone. I hope you enjoyed it.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Fantastic Hub! Really great exercises and advice!