We talked about why stretching is so important and how to do it safely. Now, let’s talk about specific stretches that work each area of the body.
Sitting tall in a chair, turn your head to the right and hold for 10-15 seconds. Extend the fingers on your left, pointing towards the floor to increase the stretch and hold for 10-15 seconds. Change sides. To keep from grinding or clenching open your mouth, then gently close your lips.
Make sure your shoulders aren’t elevated. It’s important to keep them neutral. Then bring the right arm across the body, keeping it just below shoulder level. Position your left hand above the elbow and pull the right arm gently toward your body to feel a stretch in the back of the shoulder.
Shoulder and bicep stretch
Stand shoulder-width apart, with a water bottle in each hand. Bend at the elbows and bring the bottles into the chest. Then press them straight up, high up over the head. Then bring them down to your chest and back down to your side. Repeat 15 times.
This is the muscle in the back of the upper arm. Raise the left arm and drop it behind your back. Take the right hand and gently push the left elbow towards the back and floor. You’ll feel a stretch in the triceps muscle.
Chest and arm stretch
Stand in the middle of an open door. Put your forearms on each side of the door frame. If you’re petite like me, do one arm at a time.Lean forward gently into the doorway until you feel a stretch throughout the chest and shoulders. Hold for 15 seconds.
Sit in an open doorway. Raise your left elbow above the shoulder and place it on the door jamb. Turn your head to the right and bring your head towards the floor.
Clasp your hands behind your back and elevate them together as high as you can, to feel a stretch in the arms and chest. Now clasp your hands in front, palms facing your body, and push the arms away and up. To increase the stretch for both try making the upper back into a “C” shape.
Counter push ups. Stand with feet shoulder width apart and 3 feet from the counter. Slowly lower your chest to the counter. Hold for a second then slowly push back to your starting position. Repeat 15 times.
Standing with your feet shoulder width apart hold arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Start with small circles working up to larger and larger circles 20 times. Then repeat the circles in the reverse direction for 20 more.
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Let your right hand travel down the outside of your right leg as your torso drops to the right and stretches the left side. Hold for 5 seconds and return to neutral. To increase the stretch link your hands above your head and drop your torso to the right as low as possible. Hold for 5 seconds before returning your hands high above your head. Change sides.
Lower back stretches
On a soft surface get onto your hands and knees. Make sure your hands are under your shoulders, your knees are under the hips and the head is in line with the spine. Extend the head and spine gently while tilting the hips backwards and feel the pull. Then pass through the starting position and round the back into an arch while dropping the head and shoulders, tucking the hips under and gently pulling in the abdomen. Repeat 15 times.
Lay with your back on the floor. Bring your knees towards your chest and wrap your arms around them in a hug. Rock side to side, feeling a stretch in your hips and low back. Try crossing one leg over the other to add a stretch in the gluteus and piriformis muscles.
Lunge forward with the right foot. Drop the back left knee to the grounding bend the right leg at the knee. Support yourself with your hands on the ground and feel the stretch
Standing with the left arm supported by a counter or wall. Grab hold of the right ankle and extend it backwards, bending at the knee and bringing the ankle up towards the buttock. Tighten the abdomen to prevent arching the back and keep the ankle aligned with the hip. Don’t angle it in or out while you feel the stretch.
Stand in front of a chair. Extend your right leg and put it on the seat cushion while keeping the left leg perpendicular to the floor. Now angle forward at the hips, keeping the pelvis level and the right knee straight. You should feel the stretch in the back of the thigh.
Hold onto a counter with feet shoulder width apart. Raise both legs until you’re on your toes. Hold and count to 5 before returning to the floor. Repeat 20 times. You can also stand with one leg on a curb or step. Bend the knee and drop the other leg below the curb or step and hold for 5 seconds before returning to neutral.
Lunge forward with the left leg and the right straight out behind you, with both feet pointing forward and in alignment. Use a wall for support while you push the back heel into the floor and hold for 5 seconds.
Outer thigh stretch
Sitting on the floor, keep both legs stretched out straight. Then bend the right knee, bringing the right heel as close to the thigh as possible. Wrap the left arm around the bent leg and gently rotate the torso until you feel a pull along the outer right thigh. Swap legs.
Inner thigh stretch
Sit on the floor and bring your heels and feet in together. Gently push the inner knees down to the floor and feel the stretch in the inner thighs. Don’t bounce as it can cause harm when the tendons and muscles are pushed too far too quickly.
Lay on your back. Bring the right knee up to your chest. Wrap your hands around and gently pull the right knee to your chest. Hold for the count of 5 then bring the knee across the body, towards the left shoulder and hold again for 5 seconds. Then release. Repeat 20 times, then swap legs.
Standing on one leg and swing the other leg in controlled circles that get bigger with each rotation. Engage the abdominal muscles to prevent arching the back.
Now it’s time to relax and refresh
Lay on your back. Put your hands on your abdomen and relax the entire body, feeling every part melting into the floor. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose. Exhale through your mouth until you’ve expelled all the air from your lungs. Then breath again. Feel your belly rise and fall with each breath. Visualize each body part. See the pain being released and leaving with each breath.
Stretching is an integral part of any pain management program. It helps to safely release pent up spasm and inflammation while strengthening and improving flexibility. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. Make stretching a few minutes throughout the day a regular part of your regimen.