Whether it’s from your desk job or just a really long drive, you can ease those aches with these expert-recommended exercises.
You know that feeling—probably around 4 P.M.—when everything from your shoulders to your hips starts ache and tighten? There’s both good news and bad news about what’s going on.
The bad news: “We have a webbing of connective tissue called fascia that runs throughout our body and helps muscles work together,” says Rebekah Rotstein, a movement educator and Pilates instructor in New York City and founder of Incorporating Movement studio. “It only glides and slides smoothly, though, when it’s healthy and hydrated.” It’s quite common for that fascia to become dense and stiff, especially when you’re dehydrated, don’t move enough or have poor posture (read: when you’re hunkered down at your desk all. freaking. day).
The good news: When it comes to generalized low back pain (as opposed to pinpointed pain, which could be a sign of a problem like a slipped disc—see a doc if that’s the case), Rotstein says you can change the holding patterns in your muscles and fascia that are causing stiffness and discomfort. You just need to make a little effort.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean to loosen up. “People often mistake tightness as a sign that you need to stretch,” she says. “But many times, it’s also a sign that an area needs to be strengthened.” For instance, your abs should take some of the strain off the back as well—but when they’re not strong enough to stabilize your core, the low back gets the brunt of it. Also, getting a stronger upper back, glutes, hips and shoulders can nix the aches because they’ll redistribute the forces on your body and remove the excess strain from your back.
Feel better now with Rotstein’s top four moves for releasing tension, strengthening your entire core and opening your hips.
1. Sky-High Stretch: Stand with feet together and extend arms overhead. Grab left wrist with right hand and pull gently as you stretch upward and to the right. Hold for 15 seconds, then repeat in the opposite direction.
2. Pelvic Tilt: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet on mat. Exhale and slowly rock pelvis up, flattening back against floor. (Your belly should sink as you do this.) Inhale and rock back in the other direction. That’s 1 rep; do 10.
3. Knee Lift: Start on all fours with toes tucked. Inhale and lengthen through crown of your head while you look at the ground. Raise knees off floor a few inches; hold for up to 30 seconds, then lower. Repeat one to two more times.
4. Hinging Side Lunge: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step a big step to right with right foot; push hips back and bend right knee to lower into a side lunge while keeping left leg straight. Push through right heel to stand and repeat on opposite side. That’s 1 rep; do 10.
Photo courtesy of SELF.