I hate to say it, but my back probably spends the majority of the day in a not-so-good posture. From slouching at my desk to being sprawled out on my couch watching reality TV, you could say my spine isn’t the picture of perfect health… and that’s mainly due to all of that compressing that I do to it.
Compressing your spine is like crumpling damp clothes into a ball—it makes a mess, and throws proper alignment all out of whack. “Oftentimes, back pain sufferers simply feel crunched—as if the weight of the world is hanging from their shoulders, causing immense pressure upon their spines,” says Chris Tomshack, DC, founder and CEO of HealthSource. “In a way, they’re not wrong. Gravity is one of the factors of disc degeneration, herniated, bulging, and slipped discs, as well as sciatica, and the debilitating pain that often comes as a result.”
Your answer to preventing these crunched-up woes? Decompression, which involves doing stretches and exercises that elongate your spine. “If you feel like something could ease the pressure simply by helping you stretch and pull, there are simple spinal decompression exercises you can do at home,” says Tomshack. Here are his go-to spinal exercises you can do anytime, anywhere to decompress your back for a healthier posture.
1. Cat stretch: This basic yoga move is so good for your spine. “The cat stretch helps to increase circulation in the spine while strengthening the muscles surrounding it,” says Tomshack. Channel a feline: Get on all fours with your knees aligned beneath your hips and hands beneath your shoulders. Start with a flat, neutral spine, lengthening from your tailbone to the crown of your head. Slowly arch your back, letting your head drop down between your arms, breathing deeply. Slowly reverse into the opposite of a “C” curve, breathing out while letting your stomach and back sink toward the floor as your head and pelvis tilt upward. Repeat at least 10 times.
2. Child’s pose: Turns out, child’s pose feels so good because it’s opening up and elongating your spine. Beginning on your hands and knees, slowly sit back onto your heels with the tops of your feet on the floor. Your knees should be spread slightly wider than your torso. Lay your torso down as much as possible in between your knees so you can get a deep bend in your lower back. Reach both arms overhead with your arms straight and palms on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then walk your hands to the left and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.
3. Overhead stretch: Simply standing up straight and reaching upwards works wonders for stretching out your spine, according to Tomshack. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise your arms overhead, straighten your elbows, and reach your fingers toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat three or more times.
Hanging is another one of the best spinal stretches you can do (though you’ll need a bar for this one). And here are three key stretches to combat a painful lower back.
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