[Video] Four easy stretches to relieve back tension

a picture of Liz Wright
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK
02 March 2021
Next review due March 2024

Are your back and neck feeling stiff from sitting at a desk all day? Or perhaps you’re getting back ache from binge watching movies in a fixed position during lockdown? Whatever the reason, sitting for long periods without moving can make us feel uncomfortable.

Here, you can watch me demonstrate four simple back and neck stretches that you can do at home each day to help relieve and manage any aches and pains. The stretches work by easing tension in the muscles supporting your spine.

Stretches like these can also be very relaxing, increase your flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. The only equipment you will need is a chair.

1. Neck stretch

This is good for stretching your neck muscles, in particular a muscle in your neck called the upper trapezius. This muscle often gets tight when working at a desk.

  • Sitting on your left hand, draw your left shoulder away from your ear.
  • Flex your head over to the right.
  • To increase the stretch, place your right hand on the side of your head.
  • Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds, and slowly repeat 2-3 times on each side.

2. Mid back stretch

This stretch can help to increase your range of mid back movement.

  • Sitting down, rotate your upper body around towards the back of the chair.
  • Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds, inhaling and exhaling as you hold this position.
  • Repeat the stretch 2-3 times on each side.

3. Side body stretch

The side body stretch stretches the chest muscles and a large flat muscle across the middle and lower part of your back. This muscle is called the latissimus dorsi (also known as lats). These muscles are responsible for keeping you upright.

  • Sitting down, reach your arm up towards the ceiling, reach ‘up and over’ to the side.
  • Hold this stretch for 10-30 seconds and return to the middle.
  • Repeat this stretch 2-3 times on each side.

4. Chest and hamstring stretch

This forward-leaning standing stretch can help to manage lower back pain. It also stretches the hamstring muscles in the back of your legs.

  • Holding the back of a chair, take a few steps backwards keeping your hands in a fixed position.
  • Take three slow breaths whilst you hold this stretch.
  • Slowly start to bend and straighten your knees. Listen to your body and work within your limits here.
  • Repeat this stretch 3-4 times.

How often should I do these stretches?

Try to get into a routine of doing these stretches at least twice each day. It’s important to do some form of movement every hour, so aim to do these stretches more frequently during the day if you can.

But, remember to listen to your body, and take the stretches at a pace that you feel comfortable with.

It’s also good to get into the habit of combining sitting with standing and moving over the course of your day. This is important for managing back symptoms and can help to keep your spine healthy.

If you want to stretch yourself a bit further try adding more stretches into your morning routine. Or watch this video, which has helpful tips on how to look after your muscles, bones and joints when working from home.

Speak to your GP or physiotherapist for advice and support If you have any back or neck pain. They can recommend a stretching routine that’s tailored to you.

If you have a muscle, bone or joint problem, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get advice from a physiotherapist usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

a picture of Liz Wright
Liz Wright
Physiotherapist at Bupa UK

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