I’m 66, play golf three times a week, walk three miles daily and play the occasional game of tennis. I have bulging and deteriorating cervical and lumbar discs so my back is a problem that constantly needs monitoring. I see a Physical Therapist, Chiropractor, Orthopedic Surgeon, Internist, Massage Therapist and Dr. of Chinese Medicine. Last year I consulted with all of these specialists and came up with the following list of stretches. Naturally it could be longer – but I know I won’t do them if they take more than twenty minutes. Your back and health is different from mine but these stretches really work for me. When I do them faithfully my lower back does well. When I don’t – that’s what meds are for!
Uncle Larry Stretches – Twenty Minutes
A. Lie flat on your back, legs bent, feet on floor and together – keeping your knees together swing knees slowly from side to side 20 times increasing the range as you go. On the 20th swing hold your left leg as close to the floor as comfortably possible. Repeat with the right leg.
B. In same position lift and cross your left foot over your right knee and slowly swing side to side 20 times. On the 20th count gently bring your left knee to the floor giving a full stretch. Repeat with right foot over left knee for 20 with final stretch of right knee to floor.
C. Knee pull-ups – off leg straight – long holds. Resist on in breath and pull again – repeat this process until you are fully stretched.
D. Iron Cross: Lie flat on back with your arms straight out to your sides. Turn your head gently to the right. Straighten your right leg and cross it over your left leg bringing the right heel as far as you comfortably can. Keep the right leg straight and as low to the floor as possible. Repeat with the other side.
E. Lying on your back put your left leg straight out – bend your right leg out to the side, down to the floor and bring your heel as high up on the left leg as possible. Gently press the folded right leg down to the floor and away from you. Repeat with the other side.
F. Bend and flex your left leg vertically out to the side so as to open the hip. Lift your right leg and cross it over the bent and flexed left leg. Use the weight of the right leg to slowly bring the left leg across your body to the floor in a long and gentle stretch. Repeat with the other side.
G. Sit on floor with legs spread in a wide V. Slowly reach down with both hands and grab your left ankle and hold for a count of ten. While in this position be careful to slightly lower your neck and keep it in line with the angle of the left let. Then carefully place both hands on the pad of the left foot for a count of twenty. This can be a full stretch. If you uncomfortable or feel any pain minimize the count and hold the toes, working up to a full stretch. Repeat with the other side.
H. Go into the fetal position and hold for a count of 20. Then stretch your lower back with the “cat stretch” – slowly flexing your spine upwards as you bring your belly up and your chin down.
I. Gently come up off the floor with your hands and knees on the floor (Downward Dog) to a standing position. Come up slowly and feel the neck stretch downward as you rise.
J. Slowly move head to the left – stretching your neck – holding that position for a count of 20. Repeat by moving the head to the right.
K. Place right leg on the bed toe pointed towards body. Turn upper torso to the right and lean in. Repeat with left leg and torso.
L. With your hands on your side do a full rotation of hips clockwise (hula hoop) for a count of 20. Repeat hip rotation counter clockwise.
M. Lie on a table or the edge of your bed and allow one leg to drop to the floor, opening your hip and hold for a count of 20. Repeat with other leg.