The human body was designed to move. When we feel pain in the back, neck, shoulders, or joints, it’s likely due to trauma that’s decreasing the body’s natural movement. While it might feel like staying in bed and resting is the best solution to address the pain, stretching can be the easiest way to reduce pain and prevent future injury.

Safe, chiropractor-approved stretches and exercises can increase mobility and fluidity in the body, helping you get back in action.

About Stretching:

Why is Stretching so Important?

Whether you’re experiencing pain or are getting ready to take on the day, there are several reasons why stretching is important. For one, stretching is an essential component of joint health. When muscles surrounding the joints are tight or tense, this can drastically reduce mobility in the joint. Stretching regularly can lengthen these muscles, freeing up the joints and allowing you to move with less difficulty.

Stretching improves circulation, allowing blood to flow more freely throughout the body. Likewise, routine stretching also helps reduce stress and naturally improve energy. Other benefits of chiropractic adjustments and stretching include:

  • Relieve post-exercise soreness and pain
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Help prevent future injuries
  • Treat existing injuries
  • Help improve posture

Is Stretching Safe to Do at Home?

Yes, you can follow stretches at home that were previously approved by your chiropractor. At ChiroCare of Florida, our physicians often recommend stretches our patients can follow to improve their progress between appointment care. If you have any persistent pain, make sure to consult with a qualified chiropractic physician before trying any at-home stretches, as they can exacerbate your pain and further the damage.

Exercises and Stretches for Neck Pain

The space between the bottom of the skull and the top of the shoulders is known as the cervical spine, or the neck. The role of the neck is to support the heavy weight of the head. Anything from sleeping wrong to tech neck can damage the cervical spine. Luckily, there are many neck pain stretches to help alleviate discomfort.

1. The Forward and Backward Neck Tilt:

This neck pain stretch can be done standing or seated, meaning you can even exercise sore neck muscles while at work.

  • Start with the head facing forward and the back straight.
  • Next, lower the chin toward the chest. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Relax and slowly lift the head back up.
  • From your start position, begin to tilt the chin toward the ceiling, bringing the base of the skull toward the back. Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Relax and return to the start position. Repeat the set several times daily.

2. The Side Neck Tilt:

This neck pain stretch applies the same concept as the forward and backward tilt, but side to side instead. It can also be completed standing or seated.

  • Start with the head facing forward and the back straight.
  • Gently tilt the head toward the right shoulder. Try to make your ear touch your shoulder, but do not raise your shoulder. Stop when you feel the stretch.
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Return to the start position.
  • Repeat on the left side.
  • That’s one set.
  • Work your way up to 10 sets.

3. The Downward Neck Release:

The downward neck release exercise can also be done sitting or standing. However, you may have an easier time completing this exercise on a stool without a back or while standing.

  • Start with the head facing forward and the back straight.
  • Point the nose down toward the right armpit and place the right hand behind your head.
  • Place the left arm behind your back. This will help keep the shoulder down and assist in the stretch of the neck muscle.
  • Gently pull downward with the right hand behind the head to feel a stretch. Hold for 30-40 seconds.
  • Relax and repeat on the left side.

4. The Shoulder Roll:

Unlike the previous chiropractor-approved neck pain stretches, the shoulder roll is best done standing.

  • Begin with the head facing forward and the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise the shoulders straight up and move them in a circle going forward. Repeat six times.
  • Return to the start position. Now, raise the shoulders straight up and move them in a circle going backward. Repeat six times.
  • Relax, and repeat as needed to relieve tension.

Exercises and Stretches for Mid-Back Pain

The thoracic spine runs from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the ribs. We typically refer to it as the middle back, or mid-back. It’s a common misconception that the thoracic spine suffers less due to its position in the body. However, hunching over a desk all day, attempting to lift something heavy, or even sleeping incorrectly can spur middle spine pain. Check out these chiropractor-recommended stretches for middle back pain.

5. The Cobra Stretch:

The cobra stretch is one of the best exercises to help relieve tension from the mid-back section. You can also work your way up to the complete stretch as your spine gains more flexibility and strength.

  • Start flat on your stomach with both legs squeezed together and the hands palm-down by your shoulders.
  • Keep the front of both feet flat as you press up with the hands, lifting the chest and head. Ground your hips on the mat for support.
  • Tilt your head backwards as you stretch. Lengthen the spine and keep your shoulders down.
  • Remain in this position for one full, deep breath. Gently lower yourself down to the start position.
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

6. The Cat-Cow Stretch:

The cat-cow stretch is not only a favorite among chiropractic back pain exercises, but it’s also a common yoga position to improve flexibility in the spine.

  • Start on all fours with the knees square under the hips and the wrists directly under the shoulders.
  • Spread your fingers and distribute weight evenly throughout your hands to avoid placing too much pressure on the wrists.
  • Inhale deeply and dip your stomach down to the ground while bringing your face up. Try to lift your tailbone towards the ceiling. This is the cow stretch.
  • Now, exhale and round your spine, tucking in your pelvis and arching your back like a cat. Bring the chin towards the chest.
  • Repeat 5 to 7 times.

7. The Seated Spinal Twist:

Spinal twists help to elongate the middle back. They’re great for releasing accumulated tension that tends to develop in this area. You will need a mat to perform this stretch.

  • Start seated on the mat with the back straight. Ideally, you will be sitting cross-legged, but if this is uncomfortable sit with your legs straight out in front of you.
  • Sit up tall and place your right hand behind you. Place your left hand on your right knee and inhale.
  • Exhale, twisting gently to the right. Do not pull on your knee to over-twist, simply allow your back to lengthen on your exhale.
  • Stretch the head over the right shoulder as far as your neck allows. Hold for three to five breaths and release. Stay at the center for one breath.
  • Repeat on the left side.

8. The Spinal Bridge:

The bridge stretch strengthens and opens the back. However, it does place slight pressure on the neck, so be mindful if your cervical spine has been experiencing pain or inflammation lately.

  • Start flat on your back. Bend your knees and place both feet flat on the floor.
  • Firmly press both feet to the ground, lifting up from your hips.
  • Bring your hands together under your tailbone, pressing through the shoulders to keep your hips up. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, continuously pressing your glutes to keep your hips up.
  • Slowly bring your hands towards your sides, palms facing down. Bring down the hips, rolling down one vertebra at a time.”
  • Repeat at least 5 times.

Exercises and Stretches for Low Back Pain

The lower back, also known as the lumbar spine, is the part of the spine that runs from the bottom of the ribs to the hips. Of all sections of the spine, the lower back receives the brunt of the day’s stress. This is because the bones here attach to the pelvis, which is where most movement and weight bearing takes place.

Low back pain can be the result of poor posture, lifting heavy objects, or poor core control and stability. The following stretches for lower back pain can help alleviate discomfort and improve muscle strength.

9. The Pelvic Tilt:

When abdominal muscles are not performing, the muscles of the lower back have to work harder to stabilize your body. The pelvic tilt is a gentle method of improving core stability at home.

  • Start flat on your back with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Depending on which is more comfortable for you, the arms should either be resting by your sides or clasped behind your head.
  • Imagine you’re bracing for a punch to the stomach and tighten your abdominal muscles. Press your back into the floor, there should be no room between your lower back and the mat.
  • Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and repeat 10-20 times. Remember to inhale and exhale as you complete this stretch.

10. The Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch:

The lumbar spine continues into the hips. When the hip flexors become tight, mobility in the lower back can become constricted. Try this stretch to open up the hips.

  • Start by kneeling on the right knee. Take a wide step with the left foot and place it flat in front of you.
  • Next, lean forward slowly. Bring your hips toward the floor. Tighten the buttocks to allow a deeper stretch.
  • For an even deeper stretch, try to lower your hips even further. Remember to keep your lower back in alignment to prevent injury.

11. The Knee to Chest Stretch:

The piriformis muscle is located in the buttocks, but is often responsible for causing shooting pain through the legs and lower back. A gentle and effective stretch for this muscle is the knee to chest stretch.

  • Start flat on the back with the knees bent and both heels flat on the floor.
  • Place both hands behind the right knee and pull it toward the chest. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Return to start position and repeat with the left leg. Repeat as necessary.

12. The Prayer Stretch:

Finish your set of exercises for lower back pain with the prayer stretch. This position specifically targets the muscles of the lower back, helping to lengthen them and alleviate pain.

  • Start on your knees, sitting back so that the buttocks is resting on your heels.
  • Reach the hands forward to lengthen the spine. You should feel a gentle stretch in the middle back.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds and gently sit back up. If you’re comfortable, repeat two to three times.
  • For a deeper stretch, dip your hips in between your feet and take a deep breath here.

Exercises and Stretches for Daily Wear and Tear

13. To Stretch the Tailbone

Most people feel tailbone pain when they are sitting down for a long period of time. Falling backward, sitting in the wrong position, childbirth, and hypermobility can all injure the tailbone or the surrounding muscles and tissue. Effective tailbone stretches can improve movement and flexibility in these muscles and tissue, helping free up pain in the tailbone.

At ChiroCare of Florida, we recommend the piriformis and glute cross leg stretch as one of our favorite tailbone stretches.

  • Start flat on the back.
  • Bring both knees toward your hips.
  • Rest the right ankle across the left knee.
  • Loop both hands around the left thigh and pull toward the chest. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • Slowly bring down both legs to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

14. To Stretch the Wrist and Hand

If you find yourself writing, typing, or lifting regularly, wrist and hand pain are likely common. Exercises for hands and wrists can increase flexibility, alleviate pain, and help lower your risk of injury. The prayer hands stretch for the wrists and hands is different than prayer stretch for the lower back – this stretch is specifically designed to strengthen the muscles and tendons in the wrists.

  • Start standing with the back straight and feet shoulder width apart.
  • Place both palms together in a traditional prayer position. Hands should be in front of your face.
  • With both palms pressed together, slowly spread your elbows apart. Begin to lower your hands to waist height, stopping once the hands become level with the belly button or when you feel the stretch.
  • Hold this position for 10-30 seconds. Return to the original pray position. Repeat as needed throughout the day.

15. To Stretch the Knee

When you’re feeling tightness or soreness in the knee, try stretching the hamstrings. Your hamstrings help support your hips and knees, keeping you mobile and flexible. Next time your knee begins to give you trouble, try this stretch.

  • Start standing with the back straight.
  • Step forward with the left foot. Flex the left foot and keep the right foot flat.
  • Loosen the hips and bend your right knee, mimicking a sitting back position. As you bend the right leg, keep your left leg completely straight with the heel pressing into the ground.If you don’t feel balanced enough to complete this step, use the wall for support.
  • Hold this position for 10-15 seconds. Return to the start position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Stretching with a South Florida Chiropractor

At ChiroCare of Florida, our physicians design a stretching routine that addresses your unique needs. Bearing in mind your medical history, current medical conditions, and any present pain, your physician will identify safe and effective stretches that can keep you feeling refreshed and aligned, even after you leave our office. Contact us today to get started.