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Tightness in the muscles of your back can occur after injury, poor posture, awkward positioning and overuse. Over time, this tightness can lead to pain and decreased function. According to the American Chiropractic Association, up to 80 percent of the population will experience back pain in their lifetime. Stretch your back muscles -- which include the erector spinae -- to improve flexibility and reduce risk of injury.
Erector spinae muscles run along your spine starting from the back of your pelvis, attaching to each bone in your spine from your tailbone, along the back of your rib cage and up to your head. These muscles move your spine -- in your neck, upper and lower back -- backward into extension. These muscles also maintain your spine in an upright position. The erector spinae muscles are powered by the dorsal rami of the spinal nerves. These muscles can be strained with improper lifting technique, frequent bending and excess body weight in your abdomen.
Erector spinae muscles along the back of your neck lose flexibility when muscle tension increases from stress or awkward positioning. Prolonged sitting at a desk or extensive computer use can strain the erector spinae muscles. To reduce this strain, sit and position your computer screen at eye level to keep your cervical spine straight. During the workday, stretch your cervical erector spinae muscles. Bring your chin down toward your chest until you feel a stretch -- without pain -- along the back of your neck. From this position, turn your neck slightly to the right to target the left erector spinae muscles. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times. Rotate slightly to the left and repeat to stretch your right erector spinae muscles
Erector spinae muscles located along the thoracic spine -- upper back -- also attach to your ribs. These muscles can become overstretched due to a hunched posture. In these cases, stretching is not indicated. However; erector spinae strengthening exercises can be performed to improve posture and spinal support. Sit or stand up straight, squeezing your shoulder blades together to contract your erector spinae muscles and keep your thoracic spine straight.
Erector spinae stretches for the lumbar spine, the lower back, can be performed in multiple positions. Kneeling stretches, with your buttocks resting back on your heels and arms reaching out in front of you, target the erector spinae muscles that run from the back of your pelvis -- near your tailbone -- up along the bones of your spine in your lower back. Lumbar stretches can also be performed in hands and knees position, and while seated in a chair. These stretches "arch" your lower back, lengthening the erector spinae muscles. Stretch your lumbar erector spinae twice each day -- once in the morning and again in the evening -- holding for 20 to 30 seconds and performing three repetitions. Add stretches midday if you have lower back pain or perform frequent lifting.