Last week, several patients asked me for the best back stretches for the relief of back pain. Although stretching is something that most of us do (including my dog when she wakes up in the morning) you may be surprised to hear that it is not always helpful! Several studies have found that static stretching before sports participation does not prevent injury and may actually decrease performance. Despite this, it is common to see sports teams spending considerable time stretching before games. In the case of low back stretches, stretching may actually exacerbate the injury.
Best Stretches for Low Back Pain?
Many cases of back pain during pregnancy are related to laxity in the ligamentous structures around the pelvis. Although it may feel great (for a moment) to do low back stretches, it may create more laxity which is the opposite of what is helpful. Perhaps a more common example is when patients do flexion stretches for sciatica…not good!
Stretches for Sciatica?
Injury to the spinal disc can create nerve pain or tingling and is often referred to as sciatica. (Other common terms used to describe this condition are sciatic, sciatic nerve injury, sciatic pain, herniated disc, or a slipped disc). In this situation of disc injury, lower back stretching has the potential to exacerbate the damage to the disc by placing the spine in positions that likely contributed to the problem. Although the sensation of the lower back stretch feels good, we can’t always appreciate the compression being placed on the underlying tissues that are damaged with excessive compression.
Stretching for Back Pain
So when do we stretch? Some authors recommend it as a way to address asymmetries in muscles or when there is significant shortening of a muscle after injury. There is also some literature suggesting that stretching after exercise may assist in decreasing the affects of delayed onset muscle soreness. Our clinic in Burlington tries to limit the prescription of stretching to these situations. That being said, we try to keep the big picture in mind…a few minutes of static stretching is usually harmless. The safest thing to do is contact a knowledgeable practitioner who can provide you some safe exercises.
Treatment for Back Pain in Burlington
Many patients come to our clinic and have been given inappropriate exercises for their back pain. We love when these patients call us! Our Chiropractors and Physiotherapists will assist you in finding the most suitable exercises for your condition. In terms of actual treatment for your back pain, we have options. Feel free to look around our site and learn about our different treatment techniques. For more information about “our people”, feel free to learn a bit about our chiropractors and our physiotherapists. To schedule an appointment feel free to email us at email@example.com or call 905.220.7858.
Andersen JC. Stretching before and after exercise: effect on muscle soreness and injury risk. Journal of Athletic Training 2005; 40: 218-220.
Bradley PS, Olsen PD, Portas MD. The effect of static, ballistic, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching on vertical jump performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2007; 21: 223-226.
Church JB, Wiggins MS, Moode FM, Crist R. Effect of warm-up and flexibility treatments on vertical jump performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2001;15:332-336.
Herbert RD, Gabriel M. Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic reviews. British Medical Journal 2002; 325:468.
Thacker SB, Gilchrist J, Stoup DF, Kimsey CD. The impact of stretching on sports injury risk: a systematic review of the literature. Medical Science Sports Exercise 2004; 36: 371-378.
Weldon SM, Hill RH. The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: a systematic review of the literature. Manual Therapy 2003; 8: 141-150.
Young WB, Behm DG. Effects of running, static stretching and practice jumps on explosive force production and jumping performance. Journal Sports Med Phys Fitness 2003; 43: 21-27.