For me, back pain is more than just a niggling feeling of discomfort; it affects my mood, disrupts my day and just makes me not a joy to be around. And if you’re constantly sitting at a desk all day, then chances are you’ve probably experienced it too. If you’re finding the constant applications of Deep Heat just aren't cutting through that throbbing pain, then these two stretches are definitely worth giving a go to try and ease up any stiffness.
The NHS says that “back pain is the single largest cause of disability in the UK with lower back pain alone accounting for 11% of the total disability of the UK population”. A bad back can be brought on by a multitude of things, from an injury to bad posture and even just not being active enough. After injuring my back during a deadlift gone wrong two years ago, prioritising regular stretching and mobility work are the only things that seem to keep the pain at bay, and when I forget, it definitely comes back to bite me.
These two stretches are popular within yoga but don’t instantly be put off if you’re not a die-hard yogi. I'm a weightlifter, and I regularly incorporate these two movements into my warm-ups and warm-downs and (trust me) my back thanks me for it. Both moves are very easy to do, can be done anywhere, and they’re only going to take up two minutes of your time. Here they are:
- Bird dog — hold for 30 seconds on each side
- Cat-cow — complete for a minute
For the bird dog, start on all fours and lift your opposite hand and leg, then hold. Making sure your back is flattened and that you engage your core is key here. When completing the cat-cow (a really great stretch in general for relieving tension in your back), focus on your breathing, exhaling as you arch your spine and then inhaling as you go back down.
Doing exercises that focus on strengthening your glutes, which are the biggest muscle in the body, can also help reduce back pain, as they’re key to supporting your back, as well as strong abdominal muscles. We’ve got a great 20-minute glute workout and a standing dumbbell workout for stronger abs that can help with both of these. Alternatively, investing in a massage gun is a compact tool that you can take with you on the go to relieve pain.