Happy New Year and welcome to day eight of Stretch-mas! The exercise for today is the upper spinal twist. This is a great stretch to loosen up any tight muscles in the upper back and around the ribs. If you notice difficulty or pain when twisting, bending, or reaching, then this is the stretch for you!
If you spend a lot of time on your phone or computer, chances are you’ve been hunching over a lot. Sitting like this for long periods of time can cause stiffness in the upper back. Stiffness of these muscles can lead to upper back pain. This pain may even radiate, causing you to notice it when you take a deep breath.
The Upper Spinal Twist can help to increase your pain free range-of-motion. Try this exercise after a long day of work and see how you feel!
Because this is a repeated motion exercise, you will likely notice that by the last repetition, you are much more mobile than the first! If you can bring your elbow all the way to the ground on the first repetition, make a mental note of how far you can go. Check again during the tenth repetition – you can already notice an improvement in your mobility!
Start by laying on your side. If you start by laying on your right side, this will stretch your left side, and vice versa. Now, bring your knees up to a 90-
degree angle. Your bottom hand (or the hand of the side on the floor) should be brought to your top knee (farthest from the floor) and rest there gently. Your other hand should rest with the palm down on the back of the head, with your elbow bent at about a 45-degree angle.
Once you’ve figured out this positioning – the hard part is over! From here, simply twist your back so that your top elbow slowly makes its way towards the ground. You may not be able to reach all the way back at first. Hold this position for ten seconds before returning to the starting position. Do this ten times on each side.
While it may seem obvious, don’t forget to breathe during this exercise! When you feel the tightness in your upper back, expanding your lungs when breathing can increase this, so you may subconsciously stop breathing to prevent the stretch from becoming uncomfortable. However, taking deep breaths is a necessary part of any stretch, as breathing brings oxygen to the muscles. If you don’t breathe while stretching, the lack of oxygen can cause extra stress and fatigue to the muscles you are trying to stretch!
Too easy? Try this progression!
While lying on your side with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle, bring both arms out in front of you in a straight line. Next, slowly reach your top arm back towards the ground behind you. Hold this for ten seconds, and then return to the starting position.
Try this ten times on each side and see how you feel!
This stretch is a great way to open up your back and is a slow and easy stretch that is perfect to help wake you up before getting out of bed! This stretch combined with tomorrow’s lower spinal twist are a great way to reduce back pain and start your day right!