Top 6 Stretches for Most Everyone

A question that often comes up during treatments is “what are the best stretches I can do for my profession?” This question is often very complicated as it’s less about what your job is and more about how you do the job. Are you someone who sits at a computer? How many monitors do you have? Do you take phone calls? If so, do you use a headset? These are just a few factors that can have an influence on how the work you do can impact your body.

Sometimes, though, I will have several patients who work in the same industry and do similar enough activities at work that I can see some patterns. Patterns that lead to somewhat predictable tension-related problems based on the type of exertion they are doing. The most interesting thing about this is that many of these patterns are common across multiple professions, due to the nature of the work, but also due to the nature of how we spend our offtime. Whether studying for classes, sitting at a computer, driving across town, or pole dancing in a club, many of these activities involve strain in the same areas of the body. As such, regardless of profession, the same tension patterns can be seen again and again. 

In my continuing efforts to help people stay as functional as possible, I have put together this list of my top 6 recommended stretches to help with these patterns. Each stretch should be held for 20-30 seconds and repeated 2-3 times. The best time to do them is at the end of the night, preferably before bed, as that is when the muscles will get the most benefit from stretching.

The Doorway Pec Stretch

Find a doorway and place your toes so that they are level with the doorframe. Now rest the forearms (not just the hands, the whole forearm from wrist to elbow) against the door frame. Your elbows should be bent about 90° and should be about level with your nipples (or 5th rib space). Now let gravity do the work as you lean gently forward, being supported mostly by your forearms. If done correctly, you should feel a gentle stretch across the chest and front of the shoulders and your shoulder blades should be drawn together in the back.  Do this stretch for about 30 seconds at a time and whenever you feel it is necessary.

Countertop Bicep Stretch

Find a countertop or other surface that is level with or slightly higher than your hand when it is at rest by your side. Place your hand palm down on the surface with your arm oriented behind you and either move forward or downwards so that the arm is being stretched back. You should feel this stretch predominately in the bicep and front of the shoulder. To deepen the stretch, continue to squat downward until the hand is on an equal vertical plane as the hand.

Up Dog/Cobra

Start this stretch by laying face down on the ground.  Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders and slowly straighten your arms.  Allow your back to arch backwards as the arms straighten, but leave your hips and legs in contact with the ground.  When the arms are fully extended, the torso should be arched backwards, so that your torso is moving into a position perpendicular to the floor (if you aren’t yet flexible to reach full extension, just go as far as you comfortably can).  The advanced position of this stretch allows for the hips and knees to come off the ground, but for our purposes, the basic position is adequate to get the stretch.

Knee on Floor Lunges

Place one knee on the floor so that the joint is bent to 90°, with the thigh perpendicular to the floor and the lower leg is parallel to it. The other knee should also be flexed to 90°, but with the thigh parallel to the floor and the lower leg perpendicular to it.  If the surface is too hard to rest the knee on, cushion it with a pillow or folded up blanket.  The body should be in a very upright “take a knee” position. Now, start leaning forward until a stretch in felt in the upper part of the thigh and the groin of the leg which has the knee in contact with the ground. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

Supine Gluteal Stretch

Lay on your back with your feet pointed towards a wall. You want to be close close enough to the wall so that you can place one foot flat against the wall while your upper leg is parallel to the floor.  Your knee and hip should each be bent to ninety degrees. As we did in the piriformis stretch, take your other leg and cross it over it so that the ankle is resting on the thigh of the first leg.  At this point, you may already feel a mild stretch in the glutes. Play with the depth of the position until you feel a mild stretch. This one may be done less often, but try to hold the stretch on each side for a minute before switching.

Standing IT Band Stretch

This is another stretch where having a chair or countertop nearby to hold onto is a really good idea. Start from a standing position and cross one leg behind the other.  The foot in back should be flat on the floor, bearing the weight of the body. The foot in the front should not be holding any weight, but instead be helping with balance.  Now lean the torso to the side, in the direction of the forward-most leg (ie if the left leg is behind the right leg, lean the torso to the right). The stretch should be felt in the outer hip of the weight bearing leg. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.

Breathing Out the Bad or Why Meditation Can Help Lower Blood Acidity

One of the more popular “fad” diets that has popped up in the last decade is the pH diet, or acid/alkaline diet. The idea behind it is that the human body needs to operate at a very specific pH and that many of the foods that make up the modern diet lower that value and, as a result, the blood becomes more acidic. Not quite to the levels of the xenomorphs from the fictional Alien universe, but enough to cause an overall negative impact on general physical health, organ function, and mental state (including issues like fatigue, anxiety, and depression).
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Scarf it up!

Seeing as the weather outside has taken a turn for the frightful, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about something that could make those cold days and nights a little more delightful. A simple fix that can help prevent headaches, ease neck and shoulder tension, lessen your odds of catching a cold, and generally keep overall health and comfort protected during these chilly times. And the best thing about this solution? It’s cheap, flexible, and offers a chance for some personal expression in the process. So what is this magical fix that can offer so many benefits? I am, of course, talking about one of my favorite cold weather health solutions: the scarf.

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Selecting the Diet That’s Best for You? Things to Keep in Mind

One of the most common questions people ask their medical practitioners, especially those of us on the alternative side, is “What’s the best diet for me as an individual?” It’s easy to tell why they might be confused. In the last several years, there has been a greater emphasis on eating foods that fall under very strict restrictions with the idea of minimizing negative food reactions. Vegetarianism, Veganism, Paleo, Atkins, Gluten-free – it’s no wonder people are confused. Well, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have those answers for you. What I can offer is a different way of looking at food and how it interacts with your body. By incorporating a few simple ideas into how you think of food, you will have tools available to help you determine which foods should become staples, which foods to avoid, and which foods you can indulge in, but only every once in a while.

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The Upper Back: Why It May Hurt and What You Can Do About It

One of the more common complaints I hear from people when they come to see me is of a chronic pain, one right between or just below the shoulder blades in the upper back.  It’s usually dull, but can sometimes be sharp, and is usually at it’s worst later in the day.  While it is most often found in writers, students, and people who spend long periods behind either the wheel or the keyboard, it has also shown up in dancers, athletes, and hobbyists of all kinds.  Continue reading

What is “The Core”?

Maybe it was in a yoga class or an advertisement on television promoting the latest workout craze, but it’s a safe bet that most people have at one time or another have heard that there is something called “the core” and that it’s something they need to exercise. But how many of those people actually know what “the core” is and whether or not they need to work on theirs? Continue reading

The Caveman Medicine Guide to Single Herbs

Back when I was still a Caveman Medicine practitioner-in-training, I decided to compile all of the single herbs they taught in herb class into an easily searchable, alphabetical format. Now, with the proliferation of tablet devices and phones that can read and store PDF files, I revisited this project and have decided to make it available to all of you. Continue reading