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Flexibility Exercises
Joint stiffness and loss of flexibility is a common cause of neck and back pain.  Therefore, flexibility exercises are important for many.  If a joint or muscle is stiff, pain will be felt as the limit of range of motion.  This in not the case when a muscle or joint has normal flexibility.  Therefore, one of the signs of joint or muscle stiffness is limited range of movement and pain at the end of the range.

"A good rule of thumb" is this: If you have limited movement and some stiffness is felt at the end of that movement, you will need to do flexibility exercises.  If you seem to have full movement and no stiffness is felt, you probably do not need to do that particular flexibility exercise.

It is important to follow this rule because it is possible to be too flexible.  Joints and muscles can be overstretched.  Unfortunately, some athletes and exercise fanatics spend too much effort stretching.  Weakened joints and muscles are the result.  If you are not sure which exercises you should do, or how vigorous you should be, your physical therapist or doctor can advise you.

The following flexibility exercises for the neck and upper back should first be done as a test.  If you feel stiffness as you do certain exercises, you will want to include these in your regular exercise program.

Forward head, slumped sitting posture involves rounding of the shoulders and upper back.  The muscles and ligaments in the front of the chest and shoulders may become tight with this type of posture.

Corner Stretch
This exercise stretches the chest and shoulder muscles and ligaments.  It should be held at least 15 to 20 seconds.  Repeat the exercise a few times with hands at different heights until you feel you have gained flexibility.

Wall Stretch
The wall stretch is done by standing with your back against the wall as you turn your arms out and raise overhead.  Keep upper arms and body in contact with the wall as you do this exercise.

Towel Stretch
Another chest and shoulder stretch is done by lying over a towel roll.  You may maintain this type of stretch for 3 to 5 minutes.

Head Back, Chin In Exercise
The head back, chin in, exercise is excellent for stretching tight muscles and ligaments in the back of the neck.  Initially, the exercise can be done lying down...
and advanced to the sitting or standing position as you make progress.  If you work with your head and neck in a forward bent position it is good to do this exercise frequently to relieve stress and tension.

Backward Bending with Chin Tuck Exercise
Backward bending of the neck and upper back is especially helpful if you feel stiffness across the upper back and base of the neck.  Start doing this exercise lying down, lowering the head slowly with your hand...
and progress to the sitting position as you become more advanced.  This is another excellent exercise for you to do frequently throughout the day if the forward bent head and neck position is a necessary part of your work.  To concentrate the stretch to the upper back and lower neck, only do it with a chin tuck.

Exercises to Increase Forward Bending Flexibility - Lower Back
If you have an excess curve in your low back (sway back) and your back is stiff when you try to forward bend, you will benefit from exercises that stretch the low back muscles.

The exercises that stretch the lower back muscles are the single and double knee-to-chest exercises shown here.  Single knee-to-chest exercises are done alternately.  You should hold ten to fifteen seconds with the knee flexed as close to the chest as possible.  The double knee-to-chest exercise is also done with a five to ten second hold.  One should do ten to fifteen of each of these as often as necessary to keep the back flexible.  This exercise may aggravate a disc strain or bulge and should not be done if such a condition is present.

Single knee-to-chest:

LB-Glute Stretch 1 leg Flexion









Double knee-to-chest:









Exercises to Increase Backward Bending Flexibility
If you have a flat back or if you are stiff in backward bending because you stand and sit in a forward bent position or do a lot of forward bending and lifting, you will benefit from exercises that increase backward bending flexibility.

The exercises that increase backward bending flexibility are show below.  The press up exercise is done by pushing up with the arms while the back and abdominal muscles are relaxed.  This causes a passive stretch on the low back.  The backward bending stretch is also done standing.  These exercises should be done five to ten times each occasionally throughout the day, especially after you have been sitting or forward bending and lifting.  These exercises would not benefit someone with a swayed back or someone with excess flexibility in backward bending.

Lying flat:










Half way up backwards bending stretch:










Full backwards bending stretch:










Exercises to Increase Hip Flexor Flexibility
Tight hip flexor muscles and jobs that require a lot of standing can contribute to the sway back posture.  They are sometimes caused by doing sit-up exercises incorrectly (feet stabilized while coming to a full sit up).

You should be able to lie on a table as shown below and bring one knee toward the chest until the lower back is flat while the opposite thigh remains on the table.  You should also be able to bend your knee to at least 80 degrees while in this position.  If you cannot do this, you have tight hip flexor muscles.  Tight hip flexor muscles may make the standing swayed back posture worse.  Tight hip flexors can be stretched by using the method below.  Hold each stretched position for several seconds, making sure the lower back is as flat as possible.  Repeat this exercise several times a day.

Double knee to chest:












Single leg stretch:












Neutral hip flexor stretch:












Hip flexor full stretch:












Exercises to Increase Hamstring Flexibility

Tight hamstring muscles prevent the pelvis from rolling forward as you forward bend; this will cause an increased stress on the low back.  If you have tight hamstrings you will feel a pulling up the back of your thighs as you bend forward. You should be able to extend your leg straight with your hip at a 90 degree angle while lying on your back as shown here.










If you cannot do this, you have tight hamstrings and should do the flexibility exercise below.  Simply hold the leg extended as straight as possible for five to ten seconds.  Repeat the exercise five to ten times, one or two sessions per day.



Exercise to Increase Truck Rotation Flexibility
If your spine is stiff when you try to rotate or twist, you will benefit from these exercises.

If you flex the hips and knees and bring your thighs toward your chest when you do the rotation flexibility exercises, you will stretch the mid-back area.  If you have your knees and hips bent with your feel on the floor, the stretch is more effective for the lower back area.  If you raise one leg straight overhead or cross one over the other as you do the rotation exercise, you are doing a more advanced stretch.  Note that the head is rotated to the opposite direction with all of these exercises.  You should hold each stretch ten to fifteen seconds.

Neutral lying position:










Trunk rotation stretch to the right:










Full trunk rotation stretch:










Exercises to Stretch the Calf Muscles and Heel Cords
If you have tightness of the heel cords or calf muscles, you will benefit from the following exercise.

Stand at arms length from the wall, keep your feel flat on the floor as you lean your body toward the wall.  Hold each stretch ten to fifteen seconds.

Exercises to Stretch the Adductor (inside Thigh) Muscles
If your inside thigh muscles are tight, you will benefit from the exercise shown on the below.  Sit with your feet braced together and spread your knees apart.  You may apply additional force with your hands as shown.  Hold each stretch position for ten to fifteen seconds.

Neutral position:












Thigh muscle stretch:












Bailey Chiropractic Centre
2415 Penny Road, Suite 202
High Point, NC 27265
Phone: (336) 889-8584
Fax: (336) 889-7740

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