Basic Stretches to Help with Flexibility and Joint Pain
Millions of people suffer from joint and muscle pain due to a lack of flexibility or a limited range of motion in a certain joint or series of joints. For example, if you’ve ever suffered from back or knee pain, this can be a result of tight muscles in the legs and hips. And many factors affect your flexibility, including age, sex, lifestyle, joint structure, activity level and past injuries.
Having good flexibility will prevent injuries from occurring during activities like running, walking, gardening, or even something as simple as bending over to pick up something off the floor. My goal here is to show you a series of stretches that you can work into your daily (or weekly) routine.
There are many types of stretches, but the four most common are ballistic, dynamic, static and P.N.F. We are going to explore static stretching techniques because they are the simplest to perform, and are quite safe for people of all abilities.
I will be providing you with two variations of each stretch, so if you have an orthopedic injury or are less flexible, please use the modified stretch. You can do these stretches every day, but to get good results, try for a minimum of three times a week doing each stretch 2-3 times.
Andrea (in purple) and Morgan (in blue), will be demonstrating the stretches.
(Tips: Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds, or less if you are a beginner. Emphasize slow, smooth movements. The best time to stretch is after physical activity when the body’s core temperature is warmest.)
Having tight calves can affect the way you move which can lead to knee and back pain as well as poor posture.
Standard: With good upper-body posture, place your hands on the wall and put one foot on the wall with the heal on the ground. The opposite foot should be flat on the floor and both legs relatively straight. Your hips should be level and not rotated.
Modified: With good upper-body posture, place your hands on the wall, and put one foot forward on the ground and the other back behind you flat on the floor. The front knee should be bent at a 45-degree angle, and both feet should be facing forward with the hips even and not rotated.
Standard: With one foot flat on the floor, place the other heel on the chair with the toe pointed straight up. Keeping your back straight and hips square with the wall, reach towards your foot until you feel the stretch in your hamstring.
Modified: The only difference with this one is to keep a slight bend in the top leg, while still making sure your back is straight.
Runner’s knee, arthritis, and tendonitis can all be resolved or relieved by lengthening your “thigh,” or quadriceps muscle.
Standard: Steady yourself with your hand, keep your abdominals engaged, bring one foot up behind you on to the chair. Bring the same arm above your as the leg you are stretching.
Modified: We modify this stretch by simply using a lower chair, which prevents the knee from flexing as much. This can be helpful for beginners or folks with knee injuries.
This stretch can help with hip and back pain, so give it a go.
Standard: Keeping your abdominals engaged, kneel on one knee with the opposite leg bent at 90 degrees. Push your hips forward just a little bit until you feel a slight stretch in the hip flexor muscle.
Modified: Not kneeling for this one, keep one leg back and straight. Bend the front knee.
It’s always a good idea to loosen up the shoulders. Besides, this stretch just feels good.
There’s only one version of this stretch. Be easy on this one. Bring one arm over very gently until you feel a gentle stretch behind the shoulder.
Because we spend so much time sitting at the computer or driving, it’s important to open up our chest and shoulders to reverse the damage we are doing..
Standard: With one foot back and the other forward (doesn’t matter which), place hands on a doorway and walk through until you feel a nice stretch in your chest muscles (NOT IN THE SHOULDERS)
Modified: Very similar to the standard stretch, just bend the elbows and don’t walk as far into the stretch.
More advanced stretches:
Downward Facing Dog
This is a fairly advanced stretch with a huge return on investment. It is actually a yoga pose, and it stretches many parts of the body, including arms, shoulders, chest, back, hamstrings and calves!
Standard: Start on your hands and knees, come up to a pushup position, then push back to form an upside-down V shape. Keep breathing deeply in through the nose into your belly, then out through the mouth.
Modified: Almost the same as the standard version, just place a pad or block under your heels to make the stretch a bit easier. You can also have a slight bend in the knees.
Very good for bringing all of your major joints through a full range of motion.
Kneel down with your feet together and knees apart, with the tops of your feet on the floor. Bring your body down, keeping your arms above your head. Breath diaphragmatically (in through the nose into your belly, out through pursed lips). If the stretch feels like too much, place a blanket in between your feet and your backside.
Remember to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Marco Day, an ImagineCare health navigator, is a certified personal trainer and movement training specialist.