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Healthy and Safe Ways to Stretch Out Your Spine

According to the CDC, 25% of adults in America have reported experiencing lower back pain (LBP) in the last three months, making it the most common type of pain reported.

Most people experience back pain regularly, so it is important to understand what causes the pain and the best ways to get it treated. There are a lot of causes for back pain, some minor and some more serious.

At Dickinson Neurological Surgery, we perform spinal surgery on severe causes of back pain such as lumbar stenosis, cervical stenosis, spinal tumors, and other complex spinal, neck, and back disorders. We also offer treatment for other conditions.

Often, acute back pain is efficiently treated through over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, stretching, and massage. Sometimes though, if the back pain progresses, spinal surgery can be necessary. Surgery on your spine is commonly needed for herniated discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis.

Reasons You May Need To Stretch Your Back

There are hundreds of reasons why you may need to stretch and strengthen your back. Even if you aren't currently experiencing back pain, keeping your muscles strong and your back flexible can decrease the chances of experiencing back pain in the future.

Some of the most common reasons for back pain are:


The most common areas that people carry their stress are their back, neck, and shoulders. The muscle tension that comes with carrying your stress in these locations can cause severe back pain. Stretching when you know you are stressed is a great way to alleviate muscle pain, as well as clear your head, and improve your mental health.

Stress commonly causes your muscles to tense, knot, and result in pain. While stress is a prevalent cause of back pain and discomfort, so are other emotions. Strong emotions like anger, sadness, fatigue, depression and others are also often carried in your back and can cause you pain. Planning regular stretch sessions targeted at your back, neck, and shoulders can help you manage your upper and lower back pain.


Many of us spend our days working at desks. We hunch over our keyboards with awful posture while working (or going to school) 8 hours a day. After we finish hunching over our keyboards at work, we often end up hunching on our couch at home.

The constant combination of poor posture can lead to weak back muscles and severe back pain. Slouching can also decrease circulation throughout your body, causing muscle tension, as well as joint pain.

Spending time actively correcting your posture, as well as targeted stretching, can help release your back pain. It will also strengthen your muscles and make better posture more achievable.

Lumbar Stenosis

Lumbar stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal in the lumbar vertebrae. This narrowing usually occurs in people as they age and is most commonly seen in people over 50.

Herniated discs can cause or induce lumbar stenosis. These are very painful and occur when the spinal disc is injured, and part of it pushes out. If not treated, it can get worse and turn extremely painful, requiring more invasive treatment.

Stretching can help manage this pain and keep it from getting worse. It helps relax the muscles around your spine and release tension. Physical therapy can also help. If the pain gets worse, spinal surgery is sometimes required to fix lumbar stenosis.

Other Complex Back, Neck, and Spinal Disorders

Unfortunately, back pain and neck pain are widespread throughout most populations. Many common problems can cause pain and discomfort in people no matter their age. Sometimes, these common problems can turn into more complex issues that require spinal surgery to fix correctly.

Typically, minor and moderate back pain can be treated with over-the-counter medication, stretching, and physical therapy. If you are experiencing prolonged pain, contact us, and we can schedule a consultation to help you learn how to relieve your pain.

Best Stretches to Safely Stretch Your Back

Stretching is different for everyone, and there are countless different ways to stretch. Unfortunately, there are unsafe ways to stretch that can hurt your back and your spine.

When stretching, you should make sure you listen to your body. Everyone is different, and your body will react differently than someone else's. One of the best ways to stretch safely is to be aware of your body and how it is feeling. When stretching, you should never experience sharp or shooting pain. Discomfort is okay because stretching is pushing your muscles, but sharp pain is different. Listen to what your body needs, and don't be afraid to modify some of the stretches to get the best, and safest, stretch for you.

Also, while stretching, breathing plays a huge role. Focusing on your breath by inhaling and exhaling throughout the movement can drastically improve your stretching. By doing this regularly, you can see improvements in flexibility, pain management, and even mental health.

Child's Pose

Child's pose is a very common position, especially in yoga. It is a great stretch to help lengthen your spine, as well as relax your other muscles. This stretch also enhances circulation throughout your body.

To enter a child's pose, kneel on the ground and hinge at your hips. Rest your bum on your heels and slowly walk your hands out in front of you. If you need to modify this stretch, you can place a rolled-up towel or pillow over your heels and keep your hips more elevated.

Supine Spinal Twists

The supine spinal twist is an excellent stretch because it stretches your glutes, chest, and oblique muscles. It can help you open up your spine while relaxing your muscles. Doing this stretch regularly will help relieve tension throughout your back.

To safely perform this stretch, lay on your back and spread your arms out so your body forms a T. Take your right knee and cross it over your left leg so your hips are stacked. Stay in this position and take slow, deep breaths. Then, repeat this with your left leg.

Knee to Chest

To relax and stretch your hips, as well as your lumbar spine, you should use the knee to chest stretch. This movement also helps you with spinal movement and with your spinal flexion.

To safely do this stretch, lay down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Clasp your hands behind your right thigh, and bring your knee into your chest. While doing this, pay special attention to keeping your spine and tailbone against your mat. Focus on your breathing, and repeat with your left leg.


The bridge stretch is a great movement to help stretch out your spine and strengthen your core, hamstrings, glutes, and back muscles. It also can minimize knee and ankle pain, as well as your back pain.

To properly do a bridge, lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Once comfortable, push through your feet, activate your glute muscles, and raise your hips to the roof. Hold this position and focus on your breath. When you release, slowly lower yourself down and concentrate on moving with control; slowly lay back on your mat. Repeat this 3-5 times.


The cat-cow stretch is also very common in a lot of yoga classes. It helps activate a lot of your back and neck muscles while helping elongate your spine. It stretches your upper and lower back, as well as your chest. The cat/cow stretch is a great movement to do after a long day of slouching over your work.

When entering this stretch, you should kneel with all fours on the floor with your knees down and your hands resting on your mat. This position will cause you to create a tabletop with your back. As you inhale, look up towards the sky and pull your belly button towards the floor. When you exhale, tuck your chin into your chest and arch your spine. Continue this, with an emphasis on your breathing, numerous times.


These are a couple of examples of safe and healthy back stretches that can help you activate your back muscles and work on your spinal flexibility. Back pain is growing increasingly common throughout Americans, but daily stretching can make a real difference in managing your pain.

We would love to answer any questions you have about your back pain, and even schedule you for a consultation at our office in East Idaho.

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