How to Work Out a Stiff Back
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Do you wake up in the morning with such a stiff back that you can barely roll out of bed? Do you have difficulty rising from your chair after sitting for a while because you feel so stiff?
A stiff back is one of the most irritating conditions that you can have, especially when it becomes a chronic problem, occurring over and over again. In this article, we will look at what causes your back to stiffen and what you can do to work it out.
Why Your Back Is Stiff
Your back is really the workhorse of your body. It holds you upright, moves, bends, lifts, and twists. Every time you move, your back moves, too.
All of this is made possible through the large muscles in your back, along with the ligaments and tendons that attach those muscles to the bones and joints, allowing smooth, fluid movement of your muscles and joints.
Your muscles are designed to move. When you do not move your muscles, they start to shorten, becoming what you feel as 'stiff'. This shortening happens very quickly, even overnight as you can feel every morning.
As we age, we tend to move less so we are not using our back muscles as much. Not stretching the muscles to their maximum capacity causes additional shortening.
Over time, with continued lack of movement, we do not challenge our muscles as we should and they become stiff. If you can no longer touch your toes as you did twenty years ago, your muscles have shortened.
Stretching is the Oil for Your Back Machine
If you do not use a machine, such as your car, for some time, you may have difficulty starting it. And it may take a while to run smoothly. The same thing happens with your back. The less you move, the less you can move smoothly and without pain.
To keep your muscles in tip-top shape you need to stretch them at least daily, if not more often. Stretching pulls all the muscle fibers out to their full length and helps to realign any disorganized fibers, working out the stiffness. Stretching even helps to heal scar tissue.
You can think of stretching as the oil for your muscle machine. Stretching keeps the muscle fibers lubricated and ready for moving, bending, lifting and twisting.
Stretch Your Way Out of Bed
If you wake up with a stiff back in the morning, stretch your way out of bed. Lying on your back, do a full body stretch, reaching your arms over your head and stretching all the way down to the tips of your toes.
Then, while still lying on your back, bend your knees and draw your knee up to your chest, or as far as you can. Wrap your arms around your knees and hold this position for a few seconds. Repeat this multiple times.
Finally, continuing on your back, bend your knees so that your feet are flat on your mattress. Lift your buttocks and hips off the mattress, keeping your shoulders and heads on the mattress. This is called the 'bridge'.
A little note on morning stiffness: be sure your mattress and pillow are not causing the problem.
Stretching Out of Your Chair
To get out of your chair if you are stiff, do some stretching before you attempt to get up. Raise your arms high and stretch to the ceiling, arching your back as you do so.
Place your feet on the floor and push down onto your feet, squeezing your legs and buttocks and lifting yourself slightly off your seat. Do this several times before you get out of your chair. You should find yourself getting up more easily and with less stiffness.
To keep not only your muscles, but all of your body's muscles in peak shape, make full body stretching a daily habit. There are programs available through the internet, in magazines and in books. Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, even a simple stretching routine, especially if you're currently inactive.
Other Causes of a Stiff Back
In addition to immobility and lack of use, your back can stiffen as a result of sudden overuse, as in the case of the weekend warrior, or through the use of poor posture.
Begin by maintaining proper posture especially while you sleep or sit for a very long period of time. You should always see to it that you have adequate support for your neck and back at all times. Sleep on your side along a full body pillow, draping an arm and leg over the pillow.
Practicing good body mechanisms every time you lift, bend, push or pull can also help. Poor body mechanics is another cause of a stiff and painful back. Be aware of what you are doing and how you position your body.