Because in the modern age we spend so much time sitting, whether driving, paddling sea kayaks or working, a fair amount of lower back pain and strain are inevitable, especially among anyone with a sedantary office job.
One way to prevent the pain that arises from lower back strains is with the well-documented series of core muscle drills that have become popular in recent years, particularly those incorporate Swiss ball exercises that focus on the abdominal muscles.
A second way is to be sure to stretch for five or ten minutes when you get out home from work, get out of a sea kayak, or in the morning when you wake up.
Not surprising, some of the more effective, simple stretches come from sea kayaking and from the world of yoga, particularly stretches and poses meant to open and rotate and stretch the lower spine and hips. Here’s a look at one, the so-called stork stretch, particularly effective for releasing muscular tension and increasing flexibility in the lower trunk’s groin, lower back and hip regions.
The stork stretch is particularly good at relieving accumulated muscle contractions (the muscles tension that leads to injury) sea kayaking tends to compress in the lumbar area, lower spine, buttocks and hips. A somewhat more advanced and challenging stretch, and best to try after you have sat cross-legged a few moments to loosen your hips, here’s how to do the stork or J-leg stretch.
Lie on your back with your legs outstretched and parallel. Bend one knee and pull it toward your towards your chest, using both hands on your shin or knee to pull your thigh as close to your chest as you can.
Next, take one or two deep breaths, release your thigh and knee from your chest, and hook the toes of your foot behind the your other, outstretched leg’s knee. Extend your bent leg’s arm to one side, in a T position. Using your outstretched leg’s hand, reach for the outside of the knee of your bend leg and gently pull your bent leg’s knee towards the floor. Take deep, evenly spaced breaths, as necessary, to help you relax into the stretch.
To deepen the stretch, turn your head towards your outstretched arm. To deepen the stretch even further, turn your head away as your press your kneed towards the floor. If you can, press both kneecap and opposite shoulder onto the ground or floor.
Chances are, especially if you have not done much stretching before, you won’t be able to press both knee and shoulder to the ground or floor. Although that is your ultimate intention, don’t strain to achieve the position. Rather, first lower your kneed to the ground or floor, then the opposite shoulder, allowing one to rise up while you push down the other.
When you have finished stretching one leg, groin, thigh and hip, reverse the stretch with the other leg, trying, as before, to press both your knee and shoulder to the ground or floor.