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Spinal Flexibility Exercises

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What does spinal flexibility mean to you? 

This article will provide some key tips and facts about the importance of a healthy spine and how this impacts us in our day to day routines. 

What determines a healthy spine?

It is important for us to understand the role of the spine and why we need to look after it. The spine is made up of bony structures of different shapes and sizes, and is supported by tendons, discs, ligaments and fibrous cartilage.

A major role of the spine is to protect our central nervous system (spinal cord). Our spinal cord is made up of nerve tissue which stems from our brain and helps to transfer signals of function to the rest of our body. This is classed as our nervous system. Even though our spines are made up of many different structures, it is capable of performing different tasks, such as support for the skeleton, movement and protection of organs. Without the Spine, we would not be able to perform a lot of our day to day tasks, therefore it is important to keep our spines strong and healthy.

The spine is made up of 5 sections; cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral and coccyx.

Cervical Spine

This section of the spine is made up of 7 vertebrae and is situated in the neck. It supports our head and assists with various movements including, flexion, extension, rotation and side bending. There are a lot of muscles in and around the cervical spine. These muscles can become tight, for example due to poor posture or sitting at a desk. Here are some exercises to help increase strength and flexibility in the cervical spine.

Cervical Side Bending
  • Sit comfortably on a chair with your knees bent and positioned hip width apart.
  • To stretch your left side, place your right hand on your head, have your left hand under your thigh. Use your right hand to slowly pull and tilt your head to the right side until you start to feel a light stretch. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat up to 2-3 times.
  • Repeat on the other side.
Cervical Rotation
  • Sit comfortably on a chair with your knees bent and positioned hip width apart.
  • Place 1 hand gently on your face
  • Gently use your opposite hand to push and rotate your head to look over the opposite shoulder until you start to feel a slight stretch. (Be careful not to push too hard or over rotate the neck.) Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat up to 2-3 times. 
  • Repeat on the other side.

Thoracic Spine

This section of the spine is made up of 12 vertebrae and is the largest portion of the spine. It covers the majority of the upper and lower portions of the back and assists with various movements including, flexion, extension, rotation and side bending. There are various muscles that connect to the thoracic spine, which helps this part of the spine to move and stabilise. Below is are some example of a thoracic spine flexibility exercises:

Thoracic Extension
  • Sit comfortably on a chair with your knees bent and positioned hip width apart, place a folded towel over the back of the chair for extra cushioning.
  • Gently interlock both your hands at the neck.
  • Engage your core by slowly drawing your belly button in towards your spine.
  • Slowly start to lean back and extend your back over the chair, pivoting where the top of the chair is. Hold for 3-5 seconds before returning to the start position. Repeat up to 4-5 times. 
Thoracic Rotation
  • Sit comfortably on a chair with your knees bent and positioned hip width apart.
  • Gently place your arm across your chest with both hands positioned on the shoulders. 
  • Slowly start to rotate your chest towards the left, ensuring that you keep your arms, legs, feet and pelvis stable. Rotate until end range. 
  • Slowly start to return back to the center and repeat on the other side. You can perform this up to 5 times on each side. 

Lumbar Spine

This part of the spine is made up of 5 vertebrae and makes up a fair portion of the lower back. It assists with various movements including, flexion, extension, rotation and side bending. There are many muscles that connect to the lumbar spine, which allows us to move and stabilises this part of the spine. Below are some examples of lumbar spine flexibility exercises:

Lumbar Side Bend
  • Sit comfortably on a chair with knees bent and positioned hip width apart.
  • Place your arms across your chest with both hands positioned on the shoulders.
  • Engage your core muscles by drawing your belly button inwards towards the spine without changing the natural position of the spine.
  • Slowly tilt the upper portion of your body to one side, ensuring that your pelvis, legs and feet are stable.
  • Return to the centre and repeat on the other side. Repeat up to 5 times on each side.
Lumbar Flexion
  • Lie comfortably on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, keeping your head firm on the ground.
  • Gently grasp the back of your knees with each hand.
  • Slowly pull your knees up towards your chest with your feet leaving the ground.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds before returning to the starting position.
  • You can repeat this exercise up to 3-4 times. 

Note:

If you are experiencing any spinal pain, have a history of spinal injuries or are concerned about a health condition, then it may be worth checking in with our team before performing any of the above exercises.

 

If you have questions in regards to back pain or the above exercises then make sure to get in contact with one of our team members so that we can help you to reach towards your goals.

 

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