3 Easy Stretches

From slouching at your desk to overdoing at the gym, many everyday activities can lead to back pain. Regular stretching helps protect your back by increasing flexibility and decreasing the risk of injury. Done after strengthening exercise, it also helps prevent muscle soreness.

Safe S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g Tips

  • Talk with your doctor before starting a new program of back exercise, especially if you have a history of spinal problems or back injury. Then follow these general guidelines:
  • Warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of light activity. For example, walk or pedal a stationary bike at a comfortable pace. Stretching cold muscles can lead to injury.
  • Stretch slowly, avoiding bouncy or jerky movements.
  • Go only to the point where you feel mild tension. It shouldn’t hurt.
  • Relax into the stretch, and hold for at least 5 seconds.

Below are three easy stretches that help keep your back limber and healthy.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

  1. Lie on your back on the floor with your legs extended.
  2. Lift and bend your right leg, bringing the knee toward your chest. Grasp your knee or shin with your right hand, and pull your leg as far as it will comfortably go.
  3. Remain in the knee-to-chest position while tightening your abdominal muscles and pressing your spine into the floor. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Return slowly to your starting position.
  5. Do the same thing lifting your left leg.
  6. Do the same thing lifting both legs at once.
  7. Repeat the sequence 10 times.

Kneeling Back Extension

  1. Begin on your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with your arms straight.
  2. Rock forward, putting your weight onto your arms. Round your shoulders, and let your seat drop a little. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Rock backward, sitting your buttocks as close to your heels as possible. Keep your arms extended straight ahead. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Return slowly to your starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Standing Back Arch

  1. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Put the palms of your hands on your lower back. Take a few slow, deep breaths to relax.
  3. Bend your upper body backwards, keeping your knees straight. Support your back with your hands. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Return slowly to your starting position.
  5. Repeat 5 times.
Read Video Transcript »

Ankylosing Spondylitis: Much More Than Back Pain

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis caused by inflammation of the joints.

Patients often begin experiencing painful symptoms in early adulthood, including aches and stiffness in the lower back and hips. These are often the worst after periods of inactivity or immediately after waking up.

Unlike typical back pain one might experience from injury or spending too many hours in a chair, ankylosing spondylitis can affect other joints, particularly joints in the spine at the lower back and pelvis. The hip and shoulder joints can also be affected as well.

The vertebrae in the back are of particular concern because, if left untreated, these joints can fuse together. This can cause a person to have a hunched over posture and may affect a person’s ability to breathe.

While many patients endure these painful symptoms for up to 10 years before receiving a proper diagnosis, those who work with their doctors to find proper treatment experience a much greater quality of life.

Experts agree that ankylosing spondylitis and other related diseases can run in families, so if you have relatives with a history of immune problems, you may be more likely to develop ankylosing spondylitis.

If you’re experiencing lasting pain for more than three months that feels worse in the morning and better with movement, you should talk to your doctor about ankylosing spondylitis as the potential cause of your symptoms.

Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask you about your symptoms and whether you have a history of injuries in the affected joints. Your doctor may order imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI, to get a better look at what’s causing your pain. You can also expect a simple blood test to check for signs of inflammation, as well as to rule out other potential illnesses.

Your family doctor may initially diagnose you with inflammatory back pain, and refer you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in medicine related to joints and autoimmune diseases. As ankylosing spondylitis is not associated with mechanical issues that occur with injury-related back pain, it cannot be simply remedied with surgery and requires other therapies.

While scientists continue to look for a cure for ankylosing spondylitis, there are many effective therapies that can relieve pain, improve dexterity, and delay advanced complications, such as joint damage.

Doctors often rely on drugs to reduce the painful and destructive joint inflammation with ankylosing spondylitis. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, known as NSAIDs, and TNF, or tumor necrosis factor, blockers. TNF blockers are part of class of medications called biologics that suppress aspects of the body’s inflammatory response and may slow the progression of ankylosing spondylitis.

Many patients also benefit from regular exercises with a physical therapist. Patients often find that stretching and rage-of-motion exercises, such as yoga or pilates, can help relieve pain, increase flexibility in joints, and improve physical strength.

Ankylosing spondylitis may be a lifelong condition, but it doesn’t have to be a life-limiting one.

Working closely with your doctor about latest treatments and making smart lifestyle choices can help keep painful symptoms at bay so you can live your life as you see fit.

To learn more about Ankylosing Spondylitis, take a look at the information we have here at Healthline or make an appointment with your doctor.