The attractive girl in the photo above is doing a good job stretching her hamstrings, but not really stretching her back the right way. There is a bit of twisting to one side, and some rounding as well. What Is The Proper Way To Stretch My Back? That is a bit of a loaded question. First, we have to back up a little bit.

You only want to stretch your back if you perceive it as being tight. There is one quick way to check this on discovermagazine. As a matter of fact, it is one of only two known physical tests that can identify a back pain sufferer from a non-back pain sufferer. Ready for it?? Stand up, bend down and touch your toes. How far did you make it? Where did you feel tightness? These are the most important questions to ask yourself. As physical therapists, we measure the distance from the fingertips to the floor.

If you have a friend or spouse nearby, have them hold a tape measure and measure for you. Alternately, you can use a landmark on your body, such as the front of your ankle, shin, kneecaps, or (yikes you’re tight!) mid-thigh. Write this number or landmark down, then check again in 2 or 3 weeks to see if you’ve changed it with the stretching described below. Where did you feel the pulling? If you feel tightness in the back of your legs, then your hamstrings and calves are potentially tight. If you feel it in the small of your back, then yes, your lower back muscles (erector spinae) are tight.

Now that you have identified what is tight, you can begin your corrective stretching program! If your hamstrings are tight, stretch them by propping up your foot in front of you on a small step, weight resting on the heel of that leg. Slowly lean forward by causing your hips to hinge, keeping your back straight the entire time. Lean forward slowly, and soon enough you will feel a stretch in the hamstring, and maybe in the calf as well. This is all good. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat two more times so you have a total of three stretches.

Then repeat for the opposite leg. If your low back muscles are tight, you can stretch them with the seated forward flexion stretch. It’s a mouthful, but very easy to do. Sit in a chair at the edge, knees spread wide apart. Dive forward, rounding your mid and lower back, trying to touch the floor underneath you. If you have a big belly, it will get squished here – nothing we can do about it! Keep breathing – it is a common mistake to hold your breath as you compress your lungs and abdomen when you lean forward.

Go as far as you can and stay down there for 30 seconds. Did you get your fingertips on the ground? Great! Angle your palms so they face the floor and try to get those on the ground. Got those flat, wise guy? Try elbows on the ground now. (Hehe). Now, carefully come back up and breathe normally. Repeat this forward bending stretch two more times. Repeat these stretches (just the ones you need) once or twice daily and you are on your way to a loose back. Now, you know how to successfully stretch your lower back or hamstrings, or whatever is tight down there!