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Hamstring stretching and exercises important for healthy back

laptop-3087585__480One of the most commonly complained issues that bring patients to doctors’ offices is Lower Back pain. Of course, it comes with no surprise since most people, at least in the US, have sedentary days with little to no exercise during the week. Then there are weekend warriors, where this leads to serious muscular and tendenous injuries that can take a long time to recover from.

PREVENTION IS THE KEY:

In order to look at this issue from preventative perspective, we first need to understand some basic facts. There are some life style modifications that need to be made to improve the work environment, to add more mobility to the otherwise seated days. The standing up-seated work stations are becoming more and more popular which is fantastic. I am not a big fan of treadmill desks because it is very hard on the eyes to walk on a treadmill while reading something on a screen. The minute amount of adjustment for the eye to focus on the screen puts a lot of stress on the eye muscles and lead to not only weaker eyes BUT more importantly to the visual input given to the Brain for information gathering purposes necessary for balance and posture! It is of utmost importance to always look at the big picture in order to find the most appropriate, least damaging solution.

If you click here you will see how else you can improve your work environment. I also absolutely suggest you watch the video below where I show how an air cushion on your chair can improve your posture dramatically. This reminds me of a patient who came to me asking to get a refund on the air cushion. When asked why she said it hurt her back because it mades her sit up straight!!! Of course, I was not only happy to hear how well it worked, I suggested to her to use it every other hour and work her way up to sitting on it all day at work.

MUSCLES TO FOCUS ON FOR HEALTHY BACK:

Believe it or not, there are more than your lower back muscles that are involved when it comes to having a healthy back. They are the lower abdominals , the lower back muscles, all Gluteal muscles, the quads and hamstrings. In other words, the front and back of the lower portion of your spine, your gluts and the front and back of the thigh. When it comes to sitting for an extended length of time, day in, day out, one of the muscles that is left at its shortest length the longest is the hamstring. In a video below, I show you how to stretch it using your office chair. The issue I find with most hamstring exercises is the fact that it really does not focus on the hamstring muscles only and the room for error is rather high.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN STRETCHING:

Yes there is the right way and then the wrong way of doing stretching. Stretching to the point of pain, thinking that it works better in releasing tension is far from the truth. When stretching, it is best to visualize the muscle you are working on and the two ends it connects being pulled and stretched. This is the visualization that is now a days very popular but been used by super athletes for decades. If you focus on your stretching, visualizing the muscle elongating and stretching, your muscles actually release the ‘hold’ much more.

A very important note in stretching is to make sure all other muscles in the body are relaxed! Many times, the stretching is uncomfortable enough that we tend to tense up other muscles which cause other issues. The key is to stretch to the point of maximum length without any pain and then incrementally increase the stretch, stop and assess if you are tensing up other muscles, if so, stop at that point and try to relax those other muscles. If you can’t, then you have stretched too far so back off a little bit to find those muscles relaxed again, hold the stretch of the target area until you feel a bit of release. It is also important to look at a picture of the muscle you are stretching which helps you focus better on the area and assist you in more effective visualization. This takes me to the next important reminder!

WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN STRETCHING:

I strongly advise you to NOT be distracted by anything, music included, when stretching a muscle. You want your full attention given to what you are doing to optimize your time and task at hand. There is debate as to if stretching should be done before or after a work out and my take on that is to do both before and after. I put this under the heading above because there are people who will disagree! This disagreement btw is nothing new and I think stretching before and after only gives a better preparation to warm up and to cool down the muscles before and after the exercise series.

HELPFUL HINTS:

I find it helpful to do small back and forth movements around the pause point of stretching. In other words, when you stretch to the point where you are not engaging any other muscles but feel a bit of burn in the muscle that you have stretched, you have been visualizing the muscle stretching and have given it all you can without rushing yourself, you can go a bit farther if you oscillate back and forth around that point. The key here is small and not big movements so be careful there.

I will do a video on how to properly stretch and put it on my youtube channel. You can click here to review some of my other videos that may pertain to you and your immediate health needs and perhaps wish to subscribe to my channel so you get notified of all future videos I post.

Remember, you are the Designer and the Director of your own life so design and direct it the way you wish to live it.

Dr. Shakib

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