Stretching is one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves to maintain flexibility and address postural imbalances that arise from daily patterns. However, it is also possible to overstretch muscles that are not warmed up, or even to cause damage when stretching improperly.

In the article below, Dr. Ben Kim discusses a very common hamstring/lower back stretch that can stress the lumbar (lower back) vertebrae, and suggests an easy alternative. He also gives some good advice: don’t stretch first thing in the morning!

From Dr. Ben Kim at http://www.drbenkim.com:

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“I’ve long recommended avoiding vigorous stretching first thing in the morning; the risk of injury is significant, especially as we get older, as our muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not well perfused with blood when we first wake up. These tissues are best stretched after we have been out and about for an hour or two, and optimally, after enough of an aerobic workout where we are sweating – if we’ve worked hard enough to sweat, we can reasonably assume that our muscles and ligaments are flush with blood and ready to be safely and effectively lengthened through stretching.

One stretch in particular that I have found to be quite dangerous to lower back health is forward bending where your legs are pressed together on the ground in front of you, and you lower your chest to get as close as possible to your knees. Some people use this position to stretch their hamstrings, others to stretch their lower back. Regardless of which muscles you are targeting, you should know that this stretch puts significant pressure on the discs that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae in your lower spine.”

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