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These aches and pains in your joints or back are common. A joint is the connection between two bones. It lets you move. But it can also be a pain point. There are things that can help you take care of your back and joints to help prevent pain:
Back and joint pain can stem from many different causes. Some pain might come from simply not moving enough, or from moving in the wrong way. Other pain comes from arthritis, injuries and other conditions that can cause serious joint damage at any age. If the damage is bad enough, the pain can interfere with your daily activities.
Wherever your pain is coming from, there is one thing that helps most people: Stretching. Simple stretches done correctly can help ease joint pain and stiffness, while boosting flexibility and balance. That can help you move better. It can also ease muscle tension and improve your posture.
“Stretching keeps the muscles flexible, strong and healthy, and we need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains and muscle damage,” says Harvard Health.
Stretching is also helpful, especially for people with arthritis, because it lubricates your joints. And it helps you maintain the full movement of your joints.
Stretching also helps your body before and after exercise. Because it increases your flexibility and improves your ability to move easily, it can help reduce the risk of injury.
How often should you stretch? A few stretches every day is best. Aim for at least three stretches four times a week.
Not sure where to start? Harvard Health says you don’t need to stretch every muscle every time to benefit. Some areas provide more benefit than others for easing pain. Stretching your lower body — calves, thighs, hip flexors and lower back — can help your whole body. Shoulder and neck stretches are also good ways to ease tension, pain and stiffness. And of course, carefully stretch any other areas where you have pain or stiffness.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers these tips for stretching:
If you have long-lasting pain or have had an injury, you might need to change the way you stretch or avoid stretching that area for a while. For example, if you already have a strained muscle, stretching it may cause further harm.
Talk to your doctor about the best way for you to stretch. And your doctor can help you decide which activities are safe for you.
And if you have back or joint pain that lingers, don’t ignore it. Talk to your doctor. Your doctor may suggest ways to safely ease the symptoms yourself at home. Or your doctor may recommend treatment like physical therapy.
Originally published 9/4/2020; Revised 2023
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