I love my job. I really do.
I love that I can help people achieve pain-free routines, and sustain active healthy lives. When a client comes to see me, I consider it a sincere privilege to help them find relief and more simply – to move better.
But I do have my limitations…
Truthbomb: as a Structural Integrator and Massage Therapist, there’s only so much I can do.
There’s only so many times I can treat each individual client each week. Not to mention that I can’t follow them around all week in between our appointments to make sure they’re watching their posture or lifting that big heavy object properly.
Pain management, especially that for long-standing, chronic pain – is a joint venture between the patient and practitioner. When my clients “do their homework”, their results are much better and long-lasting.
This is why I frequently assign clients take-home strengthening exercises and stretching routines. These exercises help them manage their discomfort in between appointments AND also minimize the likelihood of an injury recurring.
Some of the most common issues I treat are:
- low back pain
- tight neck and shoulders
- tight pectorals
- tight hips
- TMJ pain (jaw pain)
And the good news is that I have an exercise or stretch to help with each and every one of these conditions.
Ready to live with less pain and move more freely? I thought so!
Here are 7 stretches for every area of your body that you might be experiencing pain in.
Stretches for low back pain:
KNEE TO CHEST STRETCH
Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Bring both knees toward your chest. Wrap your arms around your knees and give them a gentle hug. You should feel a gentle stretch through your lower back. If it feels uncomfortable, try doing this one leg at a time.
Hold this stretch for approximately 20-30 sec and repeat 2-3 times.
Begin by kneeling on all fours with your shoulders over your hands and your hips over your knees. As you exhale, slowly round your upper back as if you’re pulling it up to the ceiling. Release any tension in your neck and shoulders. This is the “cat” portion of the stretch
As you inhale, let your belly go and your spine arch in the opposite direction for the cow stretch. Think of lifting your head and tailbone up to the sky.
Alternate between these two motions for 10 reps.
Stretches for tight neck & shoulders:
EAR TO SHOULDER STRETCH
Begin by sitting or standing in a comfortable position. Tilt your head and lower your left ear toward your left shoulder.
At the same time, think of reaching your right hand toward the floor to create as much length as possible between your right shoulder and ear. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
“Double Chins” or CHIN RETRACTION
Move your chin forward as far as you can (think like a turtle). Then pull your chin back as if you’re creating a double chin. Repeat this motion 10 times throughout the day to release neck tension.
Stretches for pectorals:
STABILITY BALL STRETCH
Lie faceup on a stability ball with your back, neck, and shoulders supported on the ball. Let your arms fall out to your side with your palms facing up. You should feel a gentle pull through your underarms toward the center of your chest. (These are your pectorals muscles – your pecs!)
You can increase or decrease the level of stretch by rolling your body forward or backward on the ball. Hold this for 20-30 seconds.
Stretches for tight hips:
HIP FLEXOR ROLL WITH MASSAGE BALL
Lie face down on a mat and place two massage balls under each hip flexor (this is the area just below your hip bones). Roll forward and back and side to side to break up any knots and release the tension in your hips. Do this for anywhere between 15-90 seconds.
You can also just “hang out” on the balls until you feel the muscle relax (anywhere from 30-90 seconds.)
Wondering what on earth a ‘massage ball’ is?
Learn more about them and other tools for stretching, rolling and releasing in the blog:
Self Myofascial Release (SMR): What it is, and why you need it in your life!
Stretches for sciatica:
RECLINED PIGEON POST
This one is great for that nagging pain in your butt! Lie on your back in a comfortable position with knees bent and feet on the ground. Bring your right foot onto your left knee. Then reach your arms through your legs and behind your left knee.
Gently pull the left leg toward you until you feel a gentle stretch through your glute and hip area on the right side. You can also use a towel to make the stretch a bit easier if needed.
Hold this stretch for 20-30 sec and repeat on the other side for 2-3 sets.
It’s important to note that while these stretches may provide relief, they are not one-size-fits-all.
If you’re in pain and it’s lasting longer than a week or two, it’s best to seek out a trained professional who can diagnose, treat and offer a protocol that is personalised.
If clients and their Bodywork Practitioners can work together as a team, you’ll be moving more freely and enjoying all of your regular activities in no time.
Ready to conquer your chronic discomfort (and pain) from overly tight muscles
— and finally take charge of your own health?
Spine-Health: Stretching for Back Pain Relief
NIH – National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke: Low Back Pain Fact Sheet