We’ve all done it – “I’ll just do a few jobs in the garden……” and the next day you can barely move!

Many people don’t really consider gardening to be exercise but the truth is – it is!

You need to warm up, cool down and you need to stretch if you are going to avoid the Monday morning body seize!

Whilst we would love all our patients to prepare for the day with a thorough yoga routine we know that many of you just don’t have the time so here are some basic and simple stretches to get you started:

As with all stretches, maintain a good  posture and hold the stretch until you feel you have made some progress – and no bouncing!

Hamstring stretches

These are essential to help to avoid over straining your back. When your hamstrings allow better movement at the hips your low back is less likely to be recruited for flexion (bending over) and therefore overworked. Lift your toes up and flex at the ankle to increase the stretch and invite the calf muscles to join in with the stretch. The key to this stretch is to keep your posture. Stay nice and tall!


Pectoral  stretches

Gardening involves a lot of work with your arms in front of you which makes good use of the pectoral muscles so give them a thorough stretch beforehand.

Again keep a nice, tall posture throughout. These pictures show two different stretches that both target the pectoral muscles. The key to the one shown using the tree here is to keep the right angles at your shoulder and elbow and to lean forward past the tree. It also works well using a door frame instead of a tree – you could even save time by doing both at once!




Triceps stretches

These also stretch part of the shoulder so they are a good way to prepare your arms and shoulders for digging and heavy weeding.

The first stretch here will target the left triceps but if you’re really good  try the second version on both sides and get the benefit of stretching different parts of the shoulder.


Neck stretches

We have already produced a log about these stretches but it is worth emphasising the importance of mobilising the neck and the upper part of the shoulder complex. If you have pots to lift and sacks of compost to shift you need to do these first!


reinforced neck stretch 1reinrforced neck stretch 3

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Patients regularly admit that before an episode of acute back pain they had stiffness that they ignored for weeks or even months.  This stiffness is a good warning sign and we often ignore it to our peril! A stiff back can be stretched out quickly and painlessly, a painful back needs far more time, attention and in many cases expense to resolve.

The following stretches will help to keep your back from tightening up and putting you at risk of back pain. Once back pain has started some of these stretches may be too much for your spine to cope with. If this is the case seek professional advice before stretching with back pain.

Knee Rocking:

back stretch 01

Lying flat on your back, on a firm surface, bring your knees up and place your feet flat (as above).

back stretch 03

Keeping your knees and ankles together, slowly rock your knees from side to side repetitively. Try to keep your pelvis flat to the floor as long as possible and only allow your hip to roll over into rotation when the legs can go no further without the back twisting. When rocking from side to side only pause momentarily before returning and avoid “bouncing” on the end of range.

back stretch 02

The stretch should not be painful. Only take the back through a range of movement that is comfortable with a gentle stretch at the end of each rocking motion. This stretch is a great way to improve flexibility gently and also manage muscle tightness in chronic back pain sufferers and arthritic patients.

Knee Hugs:

back stretch 04

Lying on your back, bring your knees up towards your chest and hug them with your arms. Gently squeeze your knees into your chest. The stretch should be felt in the lower back and should not hurt. If this exercise is painful then stop immediately and consider seeking professional advice. As long as the stretch is comfortable hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat as required up to 5 times per day.

Supine Twist:

back stretch 05

Lying flat on your back, stretch your left arm out to your side and bring your left leg up with a 90 degree bend at the hip and knee (as seen above). Then place your right hand across your body and onto the outside of your elevated leg.

back stretch 06

Keeping your back relaxed, gently apply pressure to the outside of your left knee, pulling it across your body (as above). If you feel discomfort in your groin as you do this stretch, move your knee a little higher or lower and it should subside. Pull your leg across your body far enough to feel a stretch in your mid to low back. Once this has been achieved hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. You may feel the leg continue to drop throughout this time, this is nothing to fear, you are improving! I would not advise repeating this stretch more than 5 times a day on both sided.

back stretch 07

This is a strong stretch. Do not rush it. If you stretch like this daily, in time your leg will move further across your body and may come to rest on the floor on your opposite side.

Make sure you maintain a good stable stretch by keeping contact with the ground under your outstretched arm and shoulder.

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Pilates is an exercise system which stretches and strengthens the body.  It focuses on precision, control and movement quality as well as helping with balance, muscle-strength, flexibility and posture. So, naturally we recommend that our patients invest their time in Pilates to help with existing complaints and to avoid future problems. For three years now we have referred our patients to Jackie Whitley. Jackie is a Body Control Pilates Level 4 Specialist Instructor which means she is qualified to work with people diagnosed with non- specific lower back pain. Jackie is able to work one to one and in small groups. Even clients who regularly attend a class have benefitted from a one to one session every few months, where you can concentrate on exercises you find difficult and make sure you are progressing.  For advice about Pilates and to book with Jackie call her on 07794 271816.


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In the past, we may have recommended that you use supports for your back or other joint instability. We have several supports available for trial by our patients some of which we are able to sell at trade price. So for advice on supports and to try before you buy, just call us on 01732 760720.

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Good posture is about keeping your body in alignment. To stand with good posture means standing tall, shoulders back, chest up, stomach in and looking at the horizon.

To assume a good posture your ears, shoulders and hips should be in a straight line.


As you can see in the picture above, if your hips, shoulders or ears are out of alignment it leads to poor posture and strain on the back and neck.

Commonly, people have rounded shoulders and a forward head position. This brings the ears and shoulders forward away from their neutral position over the hips putting strain on the base of the neck and low back. A good example of this is the thoracic kyphosis model above.

If you struggle with poor posture take time each day to do some stretching as described below. If you experience pain during or after the exercises it is best to cease the activity and to seek professional advice.

1. Lie down over a rolled up towel or foam roller so it runs down the length of your spine.


2. Stretch your arms out from your side at 90 degrees and hold for 2 to 4 minutes.


3. Stretch your arms over your head and hold for 2 to 4 minutes.


4. Reposition the roller so that it lies at 90 degrees to your spine. Lie over the roller again so it causes your mid back to arch. Hold for 2 to 4 minutes.


Written by Patrick Norman B.Ost

Registered Osteopath

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As the temperature drops we tend to see an increase in muscle strains and spasms. Many people suffer more with neck pain during the colder months. Remember to stretch your neck to each side every day and reward your neck muscles with a heat pack across your shoulders in the evening. If you do strain your neck call us for advice as you may need to rest and use ice to bring inflammation down.

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Neck Stretches

I have put together a short and simple set of stretches for the neck. If you suffer with a stiff and achy neck these stretches are sure to help. If you are suffering with sharp pain I would advise consulting an osteopath before undertaking stretches.

When stretching you should always feel comfortable. If you have to hold your breath, clench your jaw or find yourself shaking while stretching then you are pulling too hard and you risk doing more harm than good.

Gentle neck stretch:


Lying on your back with your arm at 90° to your body, gently turn your neck away from your outstretched arm.

Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. You should feel a stretch in the side of your neck and top of your chest.

If no stretch is felt you should graduate onto the more advanced neck stretches below.

Reinforced neck stretch 1:


Sitting or standing, place your hand over the top of your head and rest your hand on your opposite ear.

Without using the muscles in your neck to help, draw your elbow down towards your side.

Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, you will feel a stretch down the side of your neck.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Reinforced neck stretch 2:


Again place your hand over the top of your head, this time resting your hand behind the ear.

Without using the muscles in your neck to help, draw your elbow down and forwards, guiding your nose towards your armpit.

Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, you will feel a stretch down one side of the back of your neck.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Reinforced neck stretch 3:


Place your hand on the back of your head with your fingertips at the base of your skull.

With your arm in front of you, draw your elbow forward and down.

Hold for 15 to 20 seconds, you will feel a stretch down the centre of your neck most noticeably at the base of your skull.

Repeat on the opposite side. The stretch is subtly different side to side and needs to be done bilaterally.

Written by Patrick Norman B.Ost

Registered Osteopath

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