Range of motion is a measure of your joints' abilities to move from flexion to extension. Your muscles must work together with the tendons and ligaments that make up joints to ensure full range of motion, and if your range of motion is compromised, you might find yourself clutching your aching back and hips. A few basic stretches and exercises can help you improve your range of motion and may even help prevent injuries and pain.
Stretch your back before doing any range of motion exercises. While standing up, keep your hips stable and while gently moving your upper back from side to side. Repeat five to 10 times. Then keep your upper back still and move your hips and lower back from side to side. Try a lumbar rotation. While lying on your back, bend your knees and touch them together. Then move your knees to one side as far to the side as they will comfortably go, then to the other side.
A basic butterfly stretch stretches your hip adductors as well as your thighs. Sit down and bend your knees, then touch your feet together. Pull your feet in toward your torso until you feel a stretch. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat three to five times. Next, lie down on your back with your legs extended straight out. Slowly lift one leg upward as high as it can comfortably go. Hold for five seconds, then repeat five to 10 times on each side. Next, extend your legs straight out again and move each leg out to the side as far as it will comfortably go. Hold again for five seconds and then repeat five to 10 times with the other leg.
Weight-bearing exercises that move your hips through their range of motion can help improve strength and flexibility. Try a squat first. Simply stand up straight, then move your rear down and back as if you are sitting down in a chair. Keep your spine straight and hold for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Next, do a lunge. Take a large step forward so that your front foot is two to four feet away from your back foot. Then lower your torso so that your back knee almost touches the ground and your front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle.
Because your back stabilizes your body and helps it bear weight, most exercises work your back to some degree and many help with range of motion. To target your back, however, try a superman. Lie face down with your legs straight. Then move your arms above your head and touch your hands together. Slowly lift your legs and arms off of the ground, keeping your legs straight, and hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Next, balance on your hands and knees, face down on the ground. Tighten your abs and slowly push them upward to bend your back downward. Your back will form an upside down U-shape. Then tighten your abs again and slowly pull your back down toward the ground to make the small of your back into a U-shape. Hold each position for five seconds and repeat the exercise five to 10 times.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.