Have you been wondering why your back pain sometimes gets worse after you stretch? Is it possible that stretching isn’t always a good idea? Not too long ago, every athlete and active person was advised to stretch their muscles prior to playing a sport. Additionally, it was universally accepted that stretching was always helpful for sports warmups and the reduction of muscle pain.
In light of new research, it’s now clear that if you suffer from back, neck, or shoulder pain, doing a few stretches might do nothing more than make the situation worse. That means a higher level of pain and possibly injuring the area that already hurts. Stretching before exercise used to be a common practice for runners and other athletes. However, recent research has shown this “stretching is always good” philosophy to be quite flawed. That’s because pre-exercise stretching routines tend to inhibit rather than enhance performance in most cases.
Back Pain is Serious and Widespread
Chronic back pain is not an isolated problem among a few older folks who have had injuries or are experiencing medical problems. All kinds of muscular discomfort in the back can strike just about anyone of any age and for a whole host of reasons.
Nationally, the problem is neither small nor confined to older patients. In fact, the vast majority of back pain sufferers are adults who work full time. Lost work hours due to low back problems, primarily chronic pain, is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $50 per year.
Stretching Sometimes Makes Sense
It’s important not to make the mistake of swinging too far in the direction of negativity about stretching. Just because it often causes problems for people with back pain is not a good reason to do away with it. The fact remains that for most people who have no serious physical conditions, a brief stretch routine can feel good and help the body relax.
Why do people stretch, and what are some of the good reasons to do so? Here’s a shortlist of situations where stretching can help increase range of motion, promote recovery, and make you feel better:
- Morning: A short stretch routine that includes light warmup of the major muscle groups
- At work: Frequent but brief “stretch breaks” while you work at your desk during the day
- Evening: A few minutes of stretching to help relieve stiff, aching muscles that are wound up from a long day of alternate sitting and driving
- Any time: A short, non-intensive stretch routine as part of a general relaxation session that includes yoga exercises, slow walking, and a warm bath or shower
Stretching is Exercise
Have you ever seen those warnings on exercise videos and books? They typically say something along the lines of “Always consult with a healthcare professional before beginning a new exercise routine.” Of course, the phrase is partly there as a legal disclaimer but it has another reason: it is sound medical advice.
Far too many people, some of whom haven’t exercised or seen a doctor in years, go all-out with new exercise routines and end up injuring themselves. With this in mind, it is essential to remember that stretching is exercise. So, if you plan on opting for the DIY (do-it-yourself) treatment approach for back pain (which is never a wise move, by the way) and want to include stretching as part of your routine, be very, very careful.
Without the proper advice and guidance, treating your own neck pain can be lead to serious problems, and you could end up worse off than you were before. What’s the answer? In other words, if you suffer from back pain and want to get relief, consider the following:
- Book an appointment with your chiropractor: The back, which includes the spine, is the most important part of the human body, along with the brain. That’s because all the nerves travel through the spine at some point on their journey to outlying parts of the body. When you have back pain or discomfort that lasts more than a few hours, it’s important to get professional help. Booking a session with a licensed chiropractor should be step one. Chiropractic medicine focuses on the relationship between the spine and the rest of the body. There is no medical professional out there who can diagnose and treat back pain better than a chiropractic physician.
- Be accurate and detailed when you fill out your medical history: Doctors can make educated guesses about your medical history based on what they see when they examine you, but unless you are forthright and clear about your background, they won’t be able to give you the best possible treatment. Always tell your chiropractor about past injuries, daily work habits, other illnesses, and family medical history.
- Ask about exercises and stretches you can do at home to help relieve back pain: If stretching at home or physical therapy exercises can help relieve your back pain, your doctor might prescribe a routine for you. It never hurts to ask the chiropractor, “What can I do between visits?” If you are willing to be part of the solution and show a desire to do whatever you can, your doctor might show you some stretches and targeted exercises that can keep your back pain at bay.
- Follow the doctor’s advice and return for follow-up visits as needed: Back pain has a way of recurring if patients are not vigilant about following the doctor’s suggestions. That’s why it’s essential to do any exercises are suggested, follow any diet or nutritional advice the doctor gives you, and return for follow-up visits as needed.
How Stretching Can Cause Back Pain or Make It Worse
When back pain is caused by nerve restrictions in the spine, stretching can cause the problem to get worse. Of course, if your back pain is simply the result of sore, over-used muscles, stretching might help. But here’s the dilemma: unless you are a trained chiropractor or another healthcare provider, you really have no way of knowing for sure what the cause of the pain is.
For example, if you notice back pain and decide to do a routine that includes hamstring stretches, you could inflame an already problematic nerve and cause the pain to rapidly strengthen and spread. That’s why it always makes sense to get professional advice before trying to “treat” your own back pain with stretching or any other technique.
Why does your back hurt after stretching? Probably because the issue is not a sore or tired muscle but a nerve-related condition centered in your spine. You’re stretching an inflamed nerve, which is a very dangerous thing to do. No amount of stretching can relieve this kind of pain. In most situations, stretching will make things much worse.
Be Kind To Your Back: Get the Help You Need
Don’t procrastinate if you have back pain. See a chiropractor as soon as possible and get the right kind of treatment. Here at Integrative Physical Health, we specialize in treating back pain of all kinds, as well as scoliosis, neck pain, whiplash injuries, headaches, and more. we are currently accepting new patients, so call and book an appointment at your earliest convenience.
Don’t let back pain interfere with your life. Get the right kind of care and say goodbye to suffering. We are always happy to answer your questions about healthcare, back pain, and treatment options. Call our office today at 302-993-9113.