Exercising your back muscles is important for managing your arthritis. But learning to relax the muscles that support your spine is just as important for helping with aches and avoiding injury. Try these stretches to ease the muscles in your neck, shoulders, side and back.
1. Low back knees-to-chest
- Lie on your back with your right leg fully extended and your left knee bent with the foot flat on the floor. Bring your right knee up to the level of your waist, keeping your left foot planted.
- Put your hands in the crook of your leg behind your right thigh and gently pull your knee toward your right shoulder. Stop when you feel a slight stretch. Hold and gently return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
2. Rocking chair
The rocking motion of this stretch helps develop muscle control and, by contracting the stomach muscles, automatically causes the nervous system to relax back muscles, allowing a better stretch.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Reach up and put your hands behind your knees.
- Pull both knees toward your shoulders. When you feel a slight stretch in your lower back and buttocks, gently rock back and forth on your rounded back.
- This exercise is most comfortable when done on a rug, exercise mat or bed.
3. Seated body hang
- Sit in a straight-backed chair (with or without arms), with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on your knees.
- Gently lean forward, moving your hands toward the floor between your feet until you feel a stretch in your middle and lower back. Hold.
- To return to the starting position if you have back pain, put your hands or forearms on your knees and push yourself up.
- If you feel light-headed when you lean over, skip this stretch.
4. Side bend and twist
- Stand straight with your feet about hip-width apart, arms at your sides.
- Gently lean to the right, sliding your hand down the side of your thigh toward your knee until you feel a slight stretch on the left side of your waist. Hold. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
- Return to the starting position and bend your elbows at about 90 degrees so that your hands are in front of you. Rotate your upper body so that your hands move to the right side while keeping your hips pointed straight ahead until you feel a stretch in your left lower back. Hold.
- Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
- If you feel unbalanced during the side bend, place your feet farther apart for greater stability or try a similar move from a sitting position.