Why And How To Stretch In The Right Directions

I was positioned in a corner in a restaurant, so it was easy to watch all the other customers eating. I soon realized that one particular man had a tight and uncomfortable back. How did I know? Well, besides his rounded forward posture, I watched as he stretched. He stretched the wrong way! He felt the muscles in his back feeling strained and stretched his arms forward, in front of his body. He was trying to relieve that feeling of tightness and discomfort, but what did that do to the muscles in his back? It stretched them even further!

You know that stretching matters but, sometimes, it doesn’t seem to help much or for very long. When that happens, it’s because the muscles that are being stretched aren’t the ones that need to be stretched – you are stretching in the wrong directions!


Stretching In The Right Directions And Knowing Which Muscles Need Stretching

The muscles that tend to complain and get tight and uncomfortable are the ones on the back side of your body. However, most of your days are spent with your arms and head in front of your body. The muscles in the front of your body are the short, tight ones because of the postures you are usually in; they don’t complain, so you don’t pay attention to them. The poor muscles at the back get stretched…and stretched…and they don’t like it! Those poor overstretched muscles at the back of your neck and torso complain, but the pain is only a symptom of the real problem. They get tighter and tighter, but the type of tightness is not that of strength. It’s a type of tightness that causes weakness and is called eccentric contraction. The term means that the muscles are trying to hold their own and keep from being torn.

Muscles That Cause Postural Problems And Pain

Here’s a surprise! The muscles that cause postural problems and pain are NOT those poor back muscles. They’re the strong, short muscles in the front of your body! They’re the muscles on your inner thighs, the front of your thighs, your abdomen, your chest, and the front of your arms and neck. These are the muscles that pull you over, forward, and around your shoulders; they are the ones that strain your back.


Muscles That Need Lengthening

The muscles in the front need to be stretched and lengthened. The muscles on the back side of your body can actually benefit from strengthening, not stretching.

Here are three stretches that you can do in bed to help get rid of discomfort caused by the muscular imbalance of an overstretched back and a shortened, tight-muscled front muscles.


Even if the muscles at the back cause discomfort, stretch the ones in the front because they are the ones that actually cause postural problems and pain and strain your back.

3 Stretches For An Overstretched Back

  • Place the back side of your shoulder at the edge of the bed, so your arm can drop freely toward the floor. Let it gently stretch downward while you pretend you are a butterfly and “fly,” moving your hand toward your feet and over your head. You will feel stretching in various areas on the front side of your arm, chest, and abdomen. Always move slowly and thoughtfully when you stretch. You may have seen the doorway variation of this stretch.
  • While you’re on your back and close to the edge of the bed, allow your heel to drop slowly toward the floor. If you are tall, you may not get a full stretch. You may have to move to a taller surface like a heavy table. Whatever bed or table you lay on, make sure that it cannot flip when you drop your leg over the side. You can also stretch the front of your thigh by pulling your heel up toward your buttocks.
  • Lay on your back on the floor or your bed, and squeeze your shoulder blades toward your spine. Lower your shoulders away from your ears and thoughtfully squeeze. This movement will lift your chest and lengthen the muscles around your ribs in front. An added benefit is that you are strengthening your back at the same time! Do this stretch only twice the first few days. It will most likely feel awesome but, if you do it too many times at first, you will have after-exercise muscle soreness. Just take your time; in a few days, you can do this stretch more times a day.

Frequency Of Stretching In The Right Directions

Start gradually to avoid soreness, and pay attention to your body. Stretching in bed in the morning and evening are the best times because you are already in bed. Stretching should be an exploration – you want to feel the stretch but not to make it uncomfortable.


When most people are exposed to good stretches in the right directions, they are surprised about how good it feels. You can, too!