Earlier this month, we wrote about the discovery that stretching is better for blood pressure than walking. This is excellent news for people who might not have the time to get out for a walk. It’s also good news for people who live in areas without great sidewalks or parks. And, of course, some people don’t have the mobility for walking while stretching is easier for most of us.
Stretching has so many benefits. While some people have taken the COVID-19 shutdowns as an opportunity to get fit, most of us are less in shape than we were a year ago. Long periods spent inside and being sedentary have taken a toll. We haven’t been to the gym. We haven’t even walked around the stores as much as we used to! Being sedentary and sitting has led many people to have back pains that weren’t there a year ago. If you have new back pains — or have always struggled with them — stretching might not only help your blood pressure but your back as well.
Building core muscles supports the spine. Better blood flow is needed to do that as well as aerobic exercise. Walking, stretching and other general, low impact exercise can help build your muscles and ease your pain. General exercise has been shown to significantly reduce pain in more than half of people who have lower back problems. Yoga and other forms of stretching can improve flexibility and offer quick and lasting relief.
Some of the best stretches for back pain relief are planks, side planks and one-sided carries. If you aren’t already fit, planking can be difficult. We suggest speaking to a doctor before beginning any new rigorous routine. But side carries — like carrying your groceries on one side of your body while keeping your back straight — are far more manageable and can make a difference! Modified versions are also useful: planking with your hands on a table stretches your back without putting all of your weight on your arms. Any stretches designed to build core strength will aid your back as they help you sit straighter. You can see other stretches that are excellent for back pain, with pictures, here.
Be sure, when stretching, not to do something that makes it worse. If something hurts to do, it’s a bad sign. While stretching can help, it can also exacerbate the problem. Pay attention to your symptoms, and when they feel better or worse, that can show you what stretches and movements help you the most. If your problem is being caused by sitting too much, getting up and moving for a few minutes a day can help. Your back can get worse over time.
If you are having back pain, it’s important not to just “live with it” or ignore it. Back pain can be a serious problem and isn’t just a sign of the times or getting older. While the cause may be the current situation, that doesn’t mean you should disregard the problem. Let your doctor know about your problem. They can give you advice about the best way to handle it with your specific health conditions. The good news about using stretching to help your back is that you’ll be helping your blood pressure at the same time.