Long hours of sitting by the computer can make your back muscles feel like someone tied knots along your spine. Instead of ignoring thse warning signals, like the stiffness and muscle spasms, take a break away from your chair and stretch your back to untie those tight knots.
Stretching on the floor reduces the pressure in your spine, allowing you to focus more on the stretch. To stretch your upper and lower back together, do the cat-and-cow pose, downward dog, supine torso rotation and seated torso twist. Use a stability ball to do other stretches on the floor, such as the child's pose and laying your entire head and back on top of the ball. As you hold the stretch, take several deep breaths to enhance relaxation and avoid muscle spasms.
Stand and Reach
Sometimes your office may not provide adequate space for you to do floor exercises. Instead, wake your back muscles by reaching your arms in different directions repetitively -- over your head, to the side, to your toes or across your body. This type of stretching, call dynamic stretching, improves muscle elasticity and increases your body temperature like a warm-up, flexibility specialist Ann Frederick says, coauthor of "Stretch to Win."
Beyond Your Back
Sometimes stretching your back alone isn't enough. No matter how much your stretch, your back stiffens up again a few minutes after you stretch them. This is usually caused by other muscle groups that are tight and are connected to the back muscles and spine. Fitness professional Justin Price, contributing writer for IDEA Fitness Journal, recommends that you combine several body parts to stretch. For example, stand and put one foot a step back 1 or 2 feet behind you. Tighten your buttocks and raise your arms overhead at the same time, stretching your hip flexors, abs and shoulders while extending your spine.
Stretching too much and too quickly can cause your back muscles to contract quickly, which makes your muscles tighter and more sensitive to pressure, Frederick says. This is called a stretch reflex, which is a protective way for your body to prevent damage to your tissues and joints. If you experience pain when you stretch, check with your health-care provider before continuing any exercise routine.
- Stretch to Win; Ann Frederick, MS; Chris Frederick, PT
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Corrective Exercise for Prolonged Static-Posture Damage
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.