Category Archives: Stretches


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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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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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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