Given our modern pace of life and sedentary lifestyle, muscle pain such as lower back pain and neck tension has become far too common. Whether it’s shoulder tension from being hunched at a desk for hours, or wrist pain from typing at a computer, sore muscles can make any movement difficult and painful.
As a result, we rely on painkillers and creams to help dull the pain; however, this is simply a Band-Aid solution. Instead of reacting to muscle pain, we should be preventing it in the first place. A simple place to start, is with a basic stretching routine.
How To Stretch 101
Besides being a simple way to get your blood flowing and helping to energize your body, stretching can help you move easier. Regular stretching can get the stiffness out of muscles and ease creaky joints. It can also help prevent injury while exercising or just going about your day. Stiff muscles and joints don’t work as well as muscles that have been stretched and are ready to work.
Here are some quick Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to stretching:
- Stretch after a workout; stretching after a workout allows for the muscles to grow
- Hold stretches for 20 to 30 seconds. You’ll forces the muscles to relax.
- Stretch chronically tight areas often, these areas need more attention
- Use extra support if required, such as a stretch band or topical magnesium oil to alleviate stiffness
- Stretch in a rapid motion. Pushing yourself into position quickly and then “bouncing” back is dangerous.
- Stretch injured muscles. Even if it feels good, you may make the damage worse.
So what stretches should you be doing? Well, there are many options like yoga or physical therapy, but if you’re looking for an everyday stretch routine that will work you from head to toe, here it is.
The Best Stretches for Muscle Pain
These stretches were chosen by Marilyn Moffat, a professor of physical therapy from New York University. Before starting, it’s important to remember that if you feel any discomfort or pain while performing a stretch to stop and see a doctor or physical therapist.
You will be holding each of these stretches for 30 to 60 seconds. The first step is to make sure you get seated with proper posture. Sit, with your chin tucked down and back so that your neck is aligned with your spine. Now you’re ready to start.
Slowly turn your head to the right and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Face forward and then repeat with the left.
Tilt your head to the right and drape your right arm over your head, near your left ear. Don’t pull, but let the weight of your arm help stretch your neck. Hold, then repeat with the other side.
Cross your arms over your chest, and look over your shoulder, rotating at your trunk. Hold, then face the front and repeat with the other side.
Trunk Lateral Flexion
Bend to the side with the opposite side’s hand diagonally above your head, hold, and then repeat with the other side.
Bend over in your chair, making sure your neck is in the proper position and there is no pain.
For this stretch, make sure that the top palm is facing the body and the bottom palm is facing out. Without hunching over, try reaching your hands together behind your back. Hold, then switch sides and repeat.
Stand up straight, and grabbing the top of your foot, bend your knee so it’s pointing straight down at the floor. Hold, and then repeat with the other leg.
You should feel your back leg muscles stretch, especially along your calf. Keeping your toe on the wall, and both feet planted, Bend your front knee toward the wall. Hold, and then repeat with the other leg.
You’ll need to grab a mat or lay on a soft surface for this stretch. With one leg straight, bring the opposite knee to your chest. Hold, and then switch legs.
Using a workout band or towel can help your really get a good stretch here. Planting one foot on the floor, bring the other leg up as high as you can, ideally at a 90° angle. You can put the band or towel around the foot you are lifting to help get it higher. Hold and repeat with other side.
Last but not least, keeping your neck and back down, fold your right ankle over the left thigh right above the knee. Hold, then switch legs. If this is too intense, bring the uncrossed leg out farther.
There you have it, 12 stretches you can do everyday to keep your muscles loose and working, and preventing muscle pain as much as possible.