5 Stretches Everyone Should Do Every Morning
Have you ever awakened to a painful neck, aches and pains in your back, or any other musculoskeletal woes? Does your body ever feel sluggish in the morning? If you answered yes — or if you’re looking for a great way to start each day — then this article is for you.
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In my practice as a physical therapist, I can’t tell you how many people I speak with every day who think they have to simply accept daily aches and pains. Nothing could be further from the truth! Especially if you know a few stretches that, when performed daily, can have a dramatic impact in the way you feel throughout the day.
Below I have outlined five stretches to start your day with in order to ensure improved flexibility and mobility. In addition to performing the exercises outlined below, I recommend drinking an eight to ten ounce glass of water before putting anything else into your system. This will help jump start your digestive tract and make it easier to digest breakfast.
1. Lower Trunk Rotation
Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat. Keep your knees together and slowly lower them to one side as depicted in the image above. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds, and perform ten times on each side. This stretch is excellent because it not only stretches the lumbar musculature but it also assists in mobilizing the spine. You may hear a crack or two in your lower back as you perform this activity, which is completely normal. However, as you perform this stretch, and with all stretches, make sure that you are staying in a pain-free range of motion.
2. Hamstring Stretch
Begin by lying on your back and slowly bringing one leg towards chest, placing hands behind thigh muscle and gently draw leg towards you. It’s helpful to keep your knee straight, as seen in the image above. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and perform three sets on both legs. This is an excellent stretch for the hamstrings. Hamstrings have a tendency to get tight while we sleep, particularly in those who prefer sleeping on their side and/or in the fetal position as this shortens the hamstrings.
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Slowly lift your glutes, one vertebrae at a time, and hold at the top for five seconds. Complete ten repetitions. This exercise is good because it not only strengthens your glute muscles but it also helps to mobilize the spine.
4. Upper Trapezius Stretch
This neck stretch is excellent to keep you neck from stiffening up and developing pesky trigger points. Begin in a standing position or seated upright on the edge of a chair. Place one hand behind your back and gently drop your opposite ear to your opposite shoulder. For example, if you place your right arm behind you back, you will drop your left ear to your left shoulder (see image above). If a stretch is felt, no need to apply additional pressure with opposite hand as shown in the image above. If you do not feel a stretch, however, gently place opposite hand on the head and deepen the stretch by gradually applying pressure. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and perform three times on each side.
5. Upward Reach
Begin by sitting on the edge of the bed, or in standing. Interlace fingers as shown in the image above. Inhale and slowly raise arms overhead. Next, gently lean to on side. Slowly inhale and exhale, then slowly move to opposite side. Perform this activity ten times to each direction. This activity helps to stretch the spine and focusing on your breathing helps warm up your diaphragm.
*All images can be found at www.HEPtogo.com
Rebecca Simonds received her doctorate in physical therapy at Emory University, and currently practices at Drayer Physical Therapy Incorporated, an outpatient orthopedic clinic outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Rebecca treats patients with a multitude of diagnosis from orthopedic injuries to neurological disorders. She is also certified in intramuscular manuals therapy, or dry needling.