August 4, 2021

Four stretches for people who sit a lot

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Try these hip opener stretches for people who sit all day and help your body ward off chronic back pain.

According to the National Centers for Health Statistics, more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain and it is listed as the most common cause of chronic pain. That’s not surprising, given that Americans are spending more time than ever before sitting down, whether at a desk, watching TV or in the car. A study published in JAMA analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reported that of 6,000 people asked about the number of hours a day they spent sitting at work, home and during their commutes, about 25% said they spent more than eight hours a day sitting.

Chances are that if you sit for prolonged periods of time you may have tight hip flexors; a result of them being kept in a shortened position while sitting. These tight muscles, in turn, can contribute to the development of low back pain.

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The good news is there are beneficial stretches for people who sit all day. Consistently performing these four hip openers can help improve mobility of the hip joint and reduce the pain and stiffness that is common for people who sit a lot. Alex Diamond, DO, MPH, FAAP, FAMSSM, professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and team physician for the Nashville Predators and Nashville Sounds explains that, “increasing flexibility in the hamstrings, hip flexors and muscles attached to the pelvis relieves stress on the lumbar spine, which in turn reduces the risk of developing low-back pain. I recommend performing hip openers daily; especially if you do a lot of sitting, which most of us do.”

Diamond suggests following these guidelines when stretching any body part:

  • Warm up your muscles before stretching by walking or doing other gentle movements for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Slowly increase your stretch as you feel your muscles relax. Don’t bounce.
  • Stretch slowly and gently only to the point of mild tension, not to the point of pain.
  • Don’t hold your breath. Inhale deeply before each stretch and exhale during the stretch.
  • Stop immediately if you feel any severe pain.

The seated glute stretch

Begin in a seated, cross-legged position, with the right foot tucked into the left thigh. Lean the torso forward over crossed legs. Hold and stretch for about 30 seconds. Perform with the opposite foot tucked. Repeat each stretch at least twice.

The butterfly

Sit with your feet together and knees down to the sides. Gently stretch the legs open by pressing on the thighs with your arms. Hold and stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat at least twice.

The half-kneeling lunge

Begin in a half-kneeling position on a cushioned mat, with the right foot forward. While keeping the pelvis tucked and the spine in neutral alignment, stretch the hips forward. Hold and stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat at least twice. Perform with the opposite leg lunging forward.

The figure eight

Starting on your back, rest your left foot on your right knee; maintain the ninety degree bend in the right knee. With both hands, reach down and grab the back of the right thigh and begin pulling the right thigh and knee towards your chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds; repeat at least twice. Alternate so the right foot is resting on the left knee and repeat. 

Man suffering from lower back pain

The Vanderbilt Spine Center treats patients from across the Southeast for back pain, sciatica, whiplash and other conditions of the spine, offering a full range of treatments including non-surgical options. If surgery is necessary, the Vanderbilt Spine Center team provides an extraordinary level of experience and expertise for each patient’s needs. Download our treatment guide and schedule an appointment online.

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