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NorthSide Reaction

Is stretching and exercising in the morning bad for your back?

Every so often, an article will surface warning people not to exercise or stretch their back in the first two hours they are awake. This theory is based on the idea that the naturally occurring fluids in the spine (which rejuvenate overnight to protect the spine) are susceptible to premature drainage if the back is overworked or overstretched in the morning.

But before you give up your sunrise salutation pose, check out what Dr. Dan Laich, a neurological surgeon at the Chicago Back Institute and yoga enthusiast, had to say on the matter:

“From everything I have seen and personally experienced, stretching any time of the day is a good thing,” Dr. Laich said.

To his knowledge, studies and reports on the dangers of stretching in the morning have been inconclusive.

“There is no ‘right time’ to stretch or exercise for good back health,” Laich said. “Personally, I stretch in the morning, but do what works for you — if stretching in the morning seems to wear out your back, aim for another time.”

Just make sure you do stretch at some point every day. Stretching your back strengthens and lengthens the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your back, legs and neck. This improved flexibility often means less back pain and tension, and better spine protection.

When patients ask what stretches are best for the back, his response is always the same:

“Anything that stretches your hamstrings,” Laich said. “The strength and flexibility of your hamstrings impacts how you stand and the positioning of your sacroiliac joint [where your pelvic bones meet], which affects your posture.”

When your hamstrings are healthy and well-stretched, your spine will sit in a more neutral position, which translates to a healthier spine. He recommends having a slight arch in your back when you stretch your hamstrings (either sitting or standing), to stretch far enough just until it is tight, then let up a little and hold the stretch.

For more input from Dr. Laich and his colleagues at the Chicago Back Institute, check out their Well Community blog by clicking here.

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