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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Abdominal Exercises (21)

1. These abdominal exercises are safe to do for back pain suffers as an introduction to both core stability and abdominal strength without compromising the lower back. Lay flat on your back with you knee up at around 90 degrees to the floor.
2. Using just your abdominal muscles try to pull the front of your pelvis towards your head and vice versa. Make sure that your neck stays fully relaxed and focus on not using your hip muscles to do the crunch. You will not produce much movement - this is intentional, but you will feel a fair amount of strain on your abdominal muscles.
3. Next - in order to work out your oblique abdominal muscles, try to twist your knees and bring one knee to your opposite elbow.
4. Then go in the other direction. The entire time your lower back shouldn't leave the floor.
Diaphragm / Breathing Exercise (22)

  1. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your lower ribs.

  2. Try to breathe in such a way that the hand on your chest moves less than the one on your lower ribs. Focus on breathing 'into your stomach'.

  3. Once you feel you have got the hang of that put both hands onto your lower ribs.

  4. Try to 'breathe them apart' by breathing slowly (about 5-6 seconds to breathe in and 5-6 seconds to breathe out) 'into your abdomen' for as many breaths as you feel comfortable. Usually 10-15 is sufficient. Repeat several times per day. If you wish you can also focus your mind on relaxing and just following your breath in and out.
Core Stability Exercise (23)

1. Laying flat on your back, slide a hand under your lower back. Focus on contracting your lower abdominal muscles to tilt your pelvis upwards and flatten the lower part of the lower back against your hand.
2. The second contraction you need is the pelvic floor. Place two fingers over the front of your pelvic bone. Make the same contraction as when you want to stop taking a pee. You should feel a muscle pop up under your fingers. Try to hold these two contractions together for as long as you can - then relax for the same amount of time. Do 15 repetitions like this. Gradually try to extend how long you can hold each contraction with the aim of about 15 seconds. First master this laying down. Then try doing it sitting in a firm chair. Then try to do it standing.
3. You should have mastered the previous two steps before advancing onto these next steps. Go on all fours. Keep your thighs at around 90 degrees to your lower legs and your back straight. Then put on the same core contractions from steps 1 and 2 while maintaining the aforementioned.
4. Once you have mastered the previous step additionally try to hold your arm out straight infront of you. You must keep your neck straight and relaxed. Then try the other arm - all the while holding the original two core contractions.
5. Next try to do the same with one leg and then the other. Don't allow your back to sag or your leg / hip drop. Finally attempt to raise your left arm and right leg at the same time. Then swap to the opposite - right arm and left leg.
6. Your form throughout these exercises is very important. You must prevent your shoulders fromraising too high or dropping too low.
7. Similarly when you are raising your leg(s) your must keep your hips and pelvis level and your weight in the mid-line without shifting it over the opposite knee that is still on the ground.

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