Start Your Morning with These 5 Stretches

By Charles Lewis, PT, DPT at The Physical Therapy & Wellness Institute

We are always looking for ways to feel good in the morning and start our day off right. Everyone has their own morning routine, whether it is snoozing the alarm for 10 more minutes, getting the kids ready for school, or drinking coffee while watching the news. Mornings hours are very precious and hard to come by, but chances are you can figure out a way to carve out 5 minutes in the morning to add stretching to your routine. Especially if you want your body to feel its best and ready to take on the day.

Research has shown that stretching can lead to greater amounts of energy, increased blood flow and fewer aches and pains. Stretching can be thought of as a daily reboot to your system. It can help alleviate the achiness and stiffness felt throughout your body when you wake up. This feeling of stiffness in the morning is due to an increase in fluids in your joints and spinal discs. Fluid builds up in your joints while you sleep because your body generally stays in one place for a prolonged period of time. Stretching in the morning is a natural way to massage built up fluid from your joints to your muscles and throughout your body. Stretching prepares your body to move through its full range of motion and provides proper stimulation to your muscles. 

Therefore, if you want to create good habits of starting your day off right, try doing these 5 stretches every morning:

1. Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis muscle plays a very important role when it comes to low back and hip pain. Our sciatic nerves are located right underneath this muscle, and if the piriformis is tight, it can lead to piriformis syndrome. Those who have experienced this know it can present as a severe pain and numbness down one or both legs. Stretch your piriformis by laying flat on your back and pulling your knee with both hands towards the opposite shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and perform 3 sets on each side.

2. Child’s Pose

Throughout the day, gravity takes a toll on our low backs. By performing child’s pose each morning, you can elongate your lumbar spine and stretch the paraspinal muscles of your low back, which, over time, will help improve low back pain that affects millions of Americans. Perform child’s pose by starting in a tall kneeling position. Then slowly lower your bottom to your feet and reach forward as far as you can bringing your chest down towards the ground. You should feel a stretch in your low back. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and perform 3 sets.

3. Hamstring Stretch

Many people spend most of the day sitting in a chair, so naturally, our hamstrings get tight. Tight hamstrings can lead to low back pain and hip dysfunction. Start your day by sitting on the edge of your bed or chair and extending one leg out in front of you. Keep your back straight and bend at your hips towards the extended leg. A pulling in the back of your leg should be felt. Note: it is important to keep your back straight during this stretch in order to isolate the hamstrings, as opposed to stretching your low back. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and perform 3 sets on each leg.

 

4. Quad and Hip Flexor Stretch

As we discussed before, sitting is a common theme amongst the workforce of America. Sitting can easily tighten our Iliopsoas and Rectus Femoris muscles. Stretch these muscles by kneeling on one knee. Bring your hips forward, and you should feel a tightening of the muscles in front of the hip that is kneeling. Do not bend your back forward as this would shorten the hip flexor muscles and a beneficial stretch would not be felt. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds and perform 3 sets on each leg.


5. Upper Trap Stretch

Time for the upper body! Posture plays a huge role in your neck, shoulders, and upper back pain. Now that technology is so prevalent in our everyday lives, we find ourselves with our shoulders hiked and forward, and our heads down. The Upper Trapezius muscle can be found on either side of our necks, and its function is to shrug our shoulders. Many people are sensitive to a light touch to this muscle due to the severe tension developing. Stretch this muscle by bending your head away from the muscle, essentially bringing your ear to your shoulder. To feel a more intense stretch, use your hand to pull your head towards your shoulder. Hold the stretch for 15- 30 seconds and perform 3 sets on each side.

 

These are general stretches that would benefit the majority of the population. However, if you would like personalized stretches that are most beneficial for your body, or if you want to learn more about how to stretch and the different types of stretches there are,  it is recommended to see a physical therapist. Physical therapists are movement specialists and are able to analyze your body, depicting areas of weaknesses and tightness that put you at risk for injury. A physical therapist can create a corrective exercise and stretching plan that is best for you. You no longer need a prescription to see a physical therapist. You can book an appointment to combat areas of stiffness in your body through the betterPT app or betterPT website via direct access. You can find top physical therapists  through the betterPT platform.

Remember to make space in your life, space for health and space for happiness. Book a physical therapy appointment today!

During his time at University of Scranton, Dr. Charles Lewis constructed a systematic review examining appropriate interventions for chronic low back pain rehabilitation that was later presented at the American Physical Therapy Association's combined sections meeting. His time spent there earned him a place in the Physical Therapy Pro Bono National Honor Society. He joined The Physical Therapy & Wellness Institute in 2017. 

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