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If you’ve ever moaned and groaned over an achy low back, you’re not alone. In fact, back pain is one of the most common injuries in America. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans will experience low-back pain at any given time, and 80 percent will experience back pain in their lives. It’s also one of the most common reasons why people miss work.
While sports injuries and car accidents can cause low-back injury, so can prolonged sitting, stress and obesity. While there are plenty of medicinal options to combat pain and rehab an injury, there’s also another (free) solution to alleviating some, most or all of the problem: stretching.
“The best thing a person can do to avoid back pain and focus on training is to loosen the back before a workout and do back-strengthening exercises,” explains Kris Rosen, a personal trainer who works with many endurance athletes that would rather skip the pain and injury and keeping running (like the rest of us). Here are three sample stretches toward a stronger, healthier and pain-free back:
1. Supine Lower-Body Complex Crossover
Begin on your stomach, chin on the ground. Bring your arms out to a “T” position, like an airplane. Lift your right leg up and then cross it over toward the left side, trying to get your right toes to touch the ground. Bring it back to start position and then repeat the same move with your left leg. Continue to alternate each leg for 30 seconds.
2. Prone Lower-Body Complex Crossover
Start on your back with arms out in a “T” position. Bring your right knee into your chest and then slowly move your right leg to the left side across your left leg without lifting your shoulders off the ground. You can turn your head to the right for an extra stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
3. Lower-Body Complex Superman
Begin on your stomach with arms extended over your head so your limbs and body form one straight line. Lift your right arm slightly off the ground while lifting your left leg. Hold for five seconds and lower down. Lift your left arm and right leg slightly off the ground. Hold for five seconds and lower down. Then lift both arms and legs at the same time and hold for five seconds. That’s one rep. Continue for 15 reps.