A Few of My Favorite Stretches
The repetition of our lives causes certain muscle groups to become short, tight, and stiff. With the development of these muscle imbalances around joints, the joints can become painful and misaligned. A few key stretches from head to toe can help you feel better.
- 1. Neck Extensors: The back of the neck gets so tight and sore. By simply resting the back of your head on a pillow and drawing your chin towards your chest (without lifting your head off the pillow), these muscles can learn to relax.
- 2. The Pectoralis Muscles: These muscles that lie underneath the breasts become shortened to the point that they will draw the shoulders forward. This forward shoulder position effects both the shoulders and the neck in a bad way. Stretching the pectoralis muscles is simple: just squeeze the shoulder blades together, thereby pulling the shoulders back and the chest out. Ahhh* 3.** Hip Flexor (Psoas)**: Because we sit most of the day, this major hip muscle needs frequent stretching; otherwise, it can cause hip and back pain. The easiest way to stretch the hip flexors is by lying on the bed, face-up. Bring one side of your body as close to the edge as possible. Good. Now, bring the knee furthest from the edge towards your chest by bending at the knee and hip. Grab the knee. Now while holding this knee towards the chest, drop the other leg (closest to the edge) over the side of the bed. Gravity assists in stretching the hip as the leg is drawn towards the floor. Repeat for the other side.
- 4. Calf Muscles: Especially for ladies who have a tendency to wear high heels, this stretch for the calf muscles can prevent foot, ankle, and knee pain. Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step. Hold on to the handrail. Now, let the heels gently drop down towards to bottom step. Again, gravity assists in stretching out the calf muscles and Achilles tendon which become shortened by wearing those darn high heels.
With these favorite stretches done twice per day, the spine, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, and feet can all feel better. Scheduling some “body time” for these daily stretches can be a key part of your pain relief program. Of course, many variations of these stretches exist. If you have any questions about how to do these stretches or want to learn more about stretching, I recommend a long-time favorite book called, Stretching by Bob Anderson. You can also talk to a local professional trainer or therapist. Happy holidays and happy stretching!
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.