Disclaimer:

Please note that these stretches are intended to be used with professional advice from your osteopath. Using them on your own may result in your symptoms getting worse or causing further damage to the affected area. Use them at your own risk. Do keep in mind that there are more factors than just muscles which are involved with most spinal or joint problems - hence stretches cannot fix all painful issues on their own - but they are very useful for the maintenance of mobility and taking the load off joints. You are quite welcome to ask us questions about the stretches presented here, or give us suggestions for new additions.


General Instructions:

Stretches will vary according to the desired result on the muscle or tissue you would like to stretch. Most of the stretches presented here are intended for osteopathic patients attempting to recover from a particular issue. Hence the emphasis is towards a single muscle or group of muscles rather than producing complex regional stretching movements. In order to produce a 'retraining' effect on the muscles it is recommended to hold these stretches for about 30 seconds each. You only need to do them once in one sitting, but they do need to be repeated several times a day for optimum results. Changes should be seen within the first week and then gradually continue. If you want to produce a change in the passive length of the muscle it is recommended to hold them for at least 60 seconds. Similarly only one repetition is needed, but these are best done right after exercise and in general wouldn't need to be done more than twice a day. The changes in the passive elements of muscles will take much longer and will be very incremental.
In the photos below the green arrows always represent the area where you should expect to feel the stretch and the red arrows represent the direction in which movement is made.


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Mid Spine 'Stretch' (10)

1. Roll up a medium sized towel very tight. If you are just starting this exercise for the first time - keep the size of the roll to the amount you can barely ring your thumb and index finger around. As your spine begins to stretch in coming weeks you can make it gradually thicker. If the towel is too large you may cause yourself subsequent pain. You may also use a foam roller of an appropriate thickness.
2. Placing the towel lengthwise along your spine will have a straightening effect on your entire upper back, but also a more gradual one. Use this approach if your mid back is generally hunched forwards throughout its length.
3. Placing the towel across your spine will focus the straightening effect to several segments and leave the rest of your spine unaffected. Use this approach if your spine has a small area that is hunched - place the towel across the midpoint of that area.
4. Make sure you also place a pillow or other support under your head. Otherwise it will drop backwards and put your neck at risk of strain. Letting your arms fall away from you will both increase the effectiveness and stretch your chest lightly. Also keep in mind that this exercise is aimed at stretching ligaments and gradually reshaping your discs which are still capable of that. This is a process which takes weeks to months. Lay on the towel for 10-15 minutes every evening. It is also important to watch your posture during the day and not hunch over. Also your breathing mechanics can have a significant impact on the mid back - so check out our
 
Trap. Stretch (11)

1. Sitting upright on a chair, grip the mid-point of the side of the chair on the side you would like to stretch.
2. Sidebend your head away from the side on which you are holding the chair. Take care not to turn your head.
3. Drop your head forward towards your chest.
4. You should feel the stretch along the side of the neck, top of the shoulder and down towards your shoulder blade.
5. If you would like to make the stretch stronger, you can reach across with your opposite hand onto the side of your head and provide a very gentle additional pressure. This is only in case you feel little or no stretch with the previous steps.
 
Mid Back Stretch (12)

1. Cross your legs over and leave a small gap between them - this will allow you to aim the stretch to the lower end of your shoulder / mid back.
2. Or you can cross your legs over without leaving a gap between them. This will target the upper part of your mid back / shoulder.
3. Place the elbow of the opposite arm behind your knee and push the elbow firmly against the knee. If you chose step 1, try to sit upright while doing this part of the stretch. If you chose step 2, try to hunch over your knee a little more while doing this part of the stretch.
4. You should feel the stretch next to your shoulder blade if you chose step 1, or you should feel it just below it if you chose step 2. You may also feel a light stretch in the hip area of your top leg. In this case go to our hip stretch section. It's also important to turn your head along with your body comfortably as otherwise you will feel a strain in your neck.
 
Prone Lift Exercise (13)

1. Lay on your front on a hard surface and cross your arms in front of you. Grip the opposite forearms.
2. Place your forehead onto the forearm closest to your and relax your neck.
3. Make sure your shoulders and mid back are both as flat as you can get them.
4. While maintaining the frame you established with your forearms, lift your arms and upper body a few millimeters up. Your neck and legs should remain completely relaxed. The purpose is to activate your mid back and lower back muscles but without bending your spine. Try to hold the lift for several seconds, then relax down for several seconds and make sure all your muscles have let go. Do 10-15 repetitions in this fashion once a day.
5. This should be a very small lift just to clear the surface you're on.
6. Lifting your legs risks injuring your lower back. Lifting your arms too high risks injuring your neck.

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