A Stretch A Day Keeps the Injuries Away

Lately I’ve dealing with my old nemesis, my Kryptonite, the enemy that bedevils me every so often forcing me to confront my mortal status — back pain.

I’ve written about this before and yet, like a recurring nightmare, here it comes again.

For me, my back problems started almost two decades ago after a herniated disk during a theatrical performance. I was young and had always been extremely active. What I learned, among other things, is that I probably had not protected my back over the years by strengthening my core and stretching properly. It’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn today.

As I approach my mid-40’s with a burning desire to remain active, I have learned two important things:

One, I must find time to stretch every day and, two, I must work to limit my stress.

Let’s tackle stretching first. My body does not recover from injury or minor strains nearly as fast as it used to. It’s a fact of life that the older we get, the more time it takes our bodies to recover. We can help that recovery process, however, by stretching and strengthening.

For instance, my chiropractor and my yoga instructor provided me a series of helpful stretches to do that not only work to strengthen my core but assist the muscles around my core and pelvic girdle. My goal is to do them twice a day — once in the morning and once at night — to put my body in the best position possible to accomplish my daily routine and all I expect of my body and to prepare my body for a good night’s rest. The stretches and core work take about 10-15 minutes to perform.

Here are a couple of the stretches:

Single Knee Stretch — Lie on your back. Bend your left leg and grasp the kneecap with your hands. Gently bring the knee towards your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on your right leg.

Double Knee Stretch — Lie on your back. Bend both legs and bring them into your chest. Grasp each kneecap with a hand or grab opposite elbows around your kneecaps. Hold for 30 seconds and breathe to keep your lower back on the floor.

Pretzel Stretch — Lying on your back, bend your right and left legs. Bring your right foot over to your left thigh and place your ankle on the front of your thigh. Thread your right hand through the opening in your legs and grab that hand with your left hand on the outside of your leg. With your right elbow, work to open your right hip and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the right side.

Straight Leg Stretch – Lying on your back, with your right leg bent, lift your left leg straight into the air. Grab the back of your thigh with hands clasped. Gently pull your left leg toward you. Hold 30 seconds. Repeat on your right leg.

Pelvic thrust. Lying on your back with bent legs, slowly lift your hips off the ground and toward the ceiling. Take your time and hold for a second at the top. Repeat 15 times and hold the last repetition for 10 seconds.

Once you’re done with one set, repeat.

The second element of a healthy back, is stress reduction. I know this is easier said then done but it’s true and worth working on. If you can limit the amount of stress, it will help your body and your heart stay calm and functioning properly. There are lots of things that you can do:

Remove stressful people from your lives.

Practice deep breathing.

Smile more.

Focus on positive things in your life.

This is a process and if you suffer from back pain, I sympathize and struggle alongside you. I refuse to let it dictate how I live my life in terms of limiting my activity or participation in sports or activities I enjoy. I will, however, let it dictate how I approach life — with a constant focus on stere-free living and stretching exercises to make my body stronger, more limber and better built for the long haul.

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Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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