Back & Neck

Mechanical-Neck-Pain1Many of us experience some kind of back pain, whether it is from lifting something improperly, sitting for an extended period of time, or simple aches and pains. Below are some exercises to help alleviate pain and bring healthy movement into the back area. Different things work best for different people, so feel free to try any of the movements to find the ones that are right for you.

  • Muslim Prayer Posture
  • Head Against the Wall

These exercises are recommended by Wolf Mehling, MD.


Muslim Prayer Posture:

Note: This flexion/stretch exercise of the spine is beneficial for most but not for everybody with back pain.  If your back pain or sciatica worsens, or you develop numbness in either foot, stop!

  1. Kneel down on the carpet or a mat with your knees and feet about 5 inches apart (this will leave some space for your stomach).  If your ankle joints feel over-flexed, support them by placing a small pillow or rolled up towel underneath the ankles.
  2. Flex knees and hips all the way, bend forward. Stretch your arms in front of you so that your elbows are bent to either side and place the front of your head into your open hands.  The full length of your forearms is on the floor.  If you cannot get all the way down, simply go as far as you can.
  3. In this position, you will feel a nice stretch of the entire back all the way to the buttocks.  As you lie in this position, try to relax and focus on your breathing. Here are some things to consider:
    1. Where do you feel the movements of your breathing?
    2. Where you feel the stretch?
    3. The movement of your breathing will deepen the stretched part of your body with each inhalation, and you can deepen your breathing to enhance this.
    4. You may even feel your breathing as it moves through your pelvic floor
  4. If you are looking for an even deeper sensation, you can further enhance the sensations by stimulating the skin over the sacrum (the back bone between your hips) with scratching or patting.  You can also place a microwave-heated small pillow or a hot pack over the sacrum.
  5. Full attention is required for this exercise.  Do not read the newspaper or watch TV!
  6. You can stay in this position as long as you feel good with it. If, after a few minutes, this does not lead to a sense of muscle relaxation in the back, it is best to stop.

Head Against the Wall:

Note: this exercise is primarily for patients with neck pain with or without pain into the arm.  If your pain worsens or starts to radiate into your arm, or if you develop numbness in your arms or hands, stop.

  1. While standing about one foot away from a wall, lean your back and the back of your head against an empty area of the wall.
  2. Place your feet apart about as wide as your hips; keep the inner side of your feet parallel.
  3. Straighten your entire body as if it were a wooden board, all the way from your feet to head.  Make sure your shoulders down and chest is outward (“Lift up your heart!”)
  4. As you straighten, your back and your shoulders will come off the wall. You will look like a board leaning against the wall, with only the back of your head touching the wall.  At all times, tuck your chin in, as if trying to touch your chin to your collar bone.  Keep breathing.
    1. This should not hurt!  Stop if it does!
  5. Using your feet, you can slowly turn the ‘board’ to the right and left side. The entire trunk, neck and head should behave like a piece of solid wood.  The neck or head does not move against the trunk, (nor do the knees or feet) but the entire body rolls a bit (30-45 degrees) to both sides on the wall.  Keep breathing.
  6. Roll right and left for a few breaths, then come off the wall to fully stand upright on both feet. You should notice how light your head has become.  Your head on top of your neck is now carried by reflexes you stimulated during the exercise rather than by your effort. It is easier to balance the head over your cervical spine and to relax your neck muscles.
  7. Repeat during the day as needed.
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