Posts tagged stretching

Exercises For Low Back Pain


Did you know 31 million Americans experience back pain at any given time? There are many causes of back pain but the good news is there is relief out there. While we have previously highlighted the benefits of using foam rollers for back pain, we’d like to highlight another way to relieve pain.

Among other relief methods, gentle back exercises and stretches like the ones below can help prevent and ease low back pain:

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more pain relief tips or visit one of our trained associates at a local Relax The Back store for recommendations tailored to your physical needs and abilities.




Knowing the Difference: Strain vs. Sprain


When you’ve got a sore and swollen ankle after falling the wrong way, you’re left wondering if you’ve got a strain or a sprain. Although these two words seem interchangeable, they are injuries that involve different parts of your body.

In the case of a strain, you’ve stretched/torn a muscle or tendon. Tendons are tissues that connect muscle to bone. For this reason, you often hear people “pull a muscle” or “strain a muscle.” Most commonly, hamstrings (during sports) and the lower back (lifting heavy objects) are common muscle strain sites.

In the case of a sprain, you’ve stretched/torn a ligament. Ligaments are fibrous tissues that connect bones to joints. Sprains occur when a joint is forced beyond its normal range of motion, which most commonly occurs when turning or rolling ankles and wrists.

What are the Signs?
Although signs and symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the injury, both strains and sprains share and differ in symptoms.

Common signs include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Instability
  • Limited ability to move the affected joint/muscle

For Sprains:

  • Bruising

For Strains:

  • Muscle spasms and weakness

How are they treated?

For severe cases, see a doctor immediately. But for most mild cases, remembering RICE can help minimize the damage and help recovery:

  • Rest – Limit any physical activity using the body part within the first 24-48 hours after the injury.
  • Ice – Within the first 48 hours, ice the sprain or strain 30 minutes at a time every 3-4 hours. Consider using Reusable Cold Therapy Pads which delivers cold therapy at temperatures that comply with medically accepted protocols.
  • Compression – Use compression to help reduce the swelling. These include bandages such as elastic wraps, special boots, casts, and splints. The wrap should be snug, but not entirely cut off circulation. So if your extremities (fingers and toes) become cold, blue or start to tingle, it’s time to re-wrap! For an all in one therapy system, we recommend the VitalWrap System with a universal 6” wrap, hold, cold and compression therapy.
  • Elevate – Try to get your injury higher than your heart if possible. Use pillows under arms or legs to elevate while staying comfortable at night. Consider a body pillow that provides extra support and stability for all areas of the body, not just the head and neck.

No one is immune to sprains and strains, but here are some to help reduce your injury risk:

  • Exercise to build muscle strength, including stretching to increase flexibility
  • Always wear properly fitting shoes
  • Nourish your muscles by eating a well-balanced diet
  • Warm up before any sports activity, including practice, to loosen up
  • Use or wear protective equipment appropriate for sports and other strenuous activity



Importance of Stretching


While we all know that regular exercise is important for our overall health, stretching is often an overlooked part of our routine. And for those with back pain, the benefits of stretching are far too important to neglect whether you’re active or sedentary. Here’s why you should stretch:

  1. Flexibility: The spine is a complex structure comprised of muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones. Stretching helps keep all the parts flexible and in good working order. Rather than being stiff and less mobile, you’ll have an increased range of motion to ensure good posture, balance and normal/proper movement.
  2. Stress-relief: Stretching helps relieve tension and can make you feel relaxed. Use it as a way to not only relax your body but also your mind.  You’ll be more focused and better able to manage stress that could result in back pain.
  3. Pain-relief and prevention: Stretching improves the flexibility of surrounding lower back muscles, reducing lower back pain and muscle soreness. The combination of flexible muscles and increased range of movement prevents injury trigger points that would otherwise remain. 

Now that you know about the importance of stretching for spinal and overall health, consider incorporating it more into your exercise routines. It’s an important way to prepare the muscles for vigorous activities. That’s why stretching exercises should also be done before and after a workout to prevent muscle strain and soreness and to help avoid injuries. For spine stretches, consider using our Lumbar Extender Plus. Or for more information on how to stretch using proper technique, try our definitive book or see our trained associates in-store for recommendations tailored to your physical needs and abilities.


Benefits of Yoga for Back Pain Relief


Many suffering from back pain find yoga intimidating, especially when imagining back bending. But yoga is more than just body twisting – it’s a mind-body practice that combines poses, deep breathing, and meditation. Yoga is also very much a personal practice, and can be easily modified to fit your abilities and limitations with the help of simple props.

Physical Poses
The fundamentals of physical yoga teach you precise alignment and posture to correct any bad and harmful habits in body movement. Overall, stretching and holding poses help increase flexibility, muscular strength and joint mobility while specific poses work to strengthen abdominal and lower back muscles for much needed back support.

Deep Breathing
Yoga incorporates slow and deep, diaphragmatic breathing that balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which can reduce your perception of pain.

Meditation helps you relax, focus, and manage stress that could result in back pain and tension. It can also improve your mental and emotional health to help you keep up with the demands of a busy life impeded by back pain.

Use of Props
Simple props such as pillows, blankets, blocks, and foam rollers can help you hold modified poses according your ability. This allows your body to relax and strengthen in comfortable positions. Relax the Back’s Exercise and Therapy Foam Rollers in particular can be used for abdominal and spine stretching and balance exercises in yoga.

As with any physical activity, the addition of hot and cold therapy can relieve stress on your muscles and body that Yoga may cause. Consider using a Therabeads Moist Heat Pad for muscles aches, arthritis pain and tension. To stay cool, try substituting your yoga mat with the Shield Life Cool Pad.

You should also exercise caution. There are many variations of yoga and finding the right regimen can be confusing. To maximize the healing benefits of yoga, consider practicing with an experienced yoga teacher who can help address your problems and tailor poses and sequences to your needs.