Back Stretches for Seniors

Starting a program of back stretches for seniors will help you return to your everyday activities, reduce your pain, and enjoy a more active lifestyle.

Following a program of simple back exercises daily that are safe and effective will condition your back and trunk, improve your flexibility, and promote good posture. Make sure to check with your doctor if you have any questions about starting an exercise program.

  1. Roll Down.
  2. Knee Wipers.
  3. Single Knee to Chest.
  4. Prone Press ups.
Watch my instructional video

Strengthening and stretching your back muscles will not only support your spine but help keep your core and upper back stable during daily activities. Back stretches and exercises will also restore range of motion in your torso, can relieve back pain and go a long way in preventing and injuries from lifting or other tasks you perform.

Exercise 1

Seated Roll Down, begin seated in your chair. Scoot to the front edge with arms at sides. Inhale and extend your arms out in front of your chest, then bring your knuckles together. Exhale and slowly bring your arms down between your knees, rolling down, one vertebrae at a time until your fingers touch the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Then reverse your position and roll slowly back up to starting position one vertebrae at a time. Repeat 3 times
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Exercise 2

Supine Knee Wipers, Begin on the floor lying on your back, feet flat on floor. Press your back into the floor by performing a pelvic posterior tilt. Gently bring your knees left and right in a small range of motion. Gradually increase the motion from left to right. There should be no pain. If you experience pain, make the motion shorter. Gradually increase your motion in a pain free manner. Continue for 3 minutes.

Exercise 3

Supine Knee to Chest. Begin by lying on your back with feet flat on the floor. Perform a posterior pelvic tilt and press your back to the floor. Inhale deeply and bring one of your knees toward your chest. If you have had hip replacement, bring knee only to 90 degrees. Feel the stretch in your lower back. Hold for 10-20 seconds, then repeat with your other leg. This stretch should feel good and not cause pain.

Exercise 4

Prone Press Ups. Begin on your bed or on a mat. Start on your hands and knees position then proceed further to lying on your belly. Bring your hands palm down to the level of your face. If it is uncomfortable for your neck, place a towel roll beneath your forehead. Take a deep breath in through your nose, then lift your head off the floor and begin to arch your back. Keeping your pelvis on the floor, look at the far wall. This should not be painful. If the movement is painful, use a smaller range of motion. Repeat 10 times.

To properly condition your back and trunk, continue to perform these exercises daily for 4 to 6 weeks. Remember to reduce the motion if there is any pain or discomfort. After you begin to improve, keep the exercises as a maintenance program 2 or 3 times per week. This will keep your strength and range of motion gains intact and make your daily tasks that much easier.

If there is a lot of stiffness in your back before your exercise session, a warm up may be a good choice. Walking for a brisk 5 minutes will improve your blood flow and warm up your muscles. A stationary bike can also perform the same function, getting your heart pumping, and loosening up your back and joints.

After your warm up is a good time for these exercises, as the first three are stretches with the last exercise, the prone press up, more of a combination for your back stretches and strengthening. You will really appreciate a warm up and stretch to get your day going.

Remember not to ignore any pain. Stretches should feel good and should not cause any aggravation or increased discomfort in your spine. You can modify the exercise by reducing the range of motion of the move and also by reducing the number of repetitions.

These exercises will be targeting your most used back muscles including your spinal extensors, erector spinae located in the middle of your back. You may also find these back stretches will also target muscles closer to your shoulders including your trapezius, latissimus dorsi and cervical neck muscles.

Beginning a back stretches and strengthening program for seniors exercise is a great way to reduce pain, increase your motion, and get more enjoyment out of your day. Start these exercises today to “stay active, stay strong, and stay connected.”

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Douglas Schrift

Doug Schrift is a Physical Therapist, Certified Geriatric Specialist, and senior fitness coach. Doug helps seniors become strong and stable even if they have never exercised before.