Problem Solving Stretches: Resolve to stretch regularly

  • Hamilton demonstrates a “front pocket stretch” exercise for office workers to help relieve sciatica. Staff photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a flamingo stretch. Photographed Thursday, June 6, 2019. Staff photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a kneeling thigh stretch (using a chair). Photographed Thursday, June 6, 2019. Staff photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates problem-solving stretches for sitting too long: sit, seated twist. Staff photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates step two of a three-step chest stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing: turn palms upward (anterior view). Photographed Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Staff photo/Kevin Gutting

For the Gazette
Published: 12/17/2019 8:53:08 AM

We have reached resolution time of year again. Resolution, the commitment to re-solve something. How many times have you sought solutions to your back pain, only to have pain return? In the end, one-time fixes are rarely enough. Lasting pain relief requires we shift our habits, little by little, over time.

My teacher, Lee Albert of Pittsfield, often quips, “we’re not in pain because we’re older; we’re in pain because we’ve been crooked longer.” The key to being less crooked is frequent, consistent and gentle stretching to even out the muscles in our pelvis and back. Our pelvis is designed to tilt forward, twist and hike side to side, giving us a wide range of movement and mobility. Yet when our pelvis stays crooked, aches and pains abound throughout our bodies.

If your back, hips, knees and shoulders complain regularly, these simple tools can change your life. The key is to use these gentle stretches for 30 seconds each, five times daily. Yes, you read that right — five times a day. By stretching multiple times a day, you train your muscles to stay a little bit longer, resolving the crooked muscle patterns brought about by injury, habit and even exercise.

These simple stretches are designed to fit in easily during your regular routine. Twist in bed before you get up in the morning; stretch your chest while waiting for the coffee pot, stretch your thighs before and after walking the dog, stretch your hip flexors before climbing in and out of your car and every time you head upstairs, repeat them while cooking dinner and before bed… you get the idea. When you allow these stretches to piggyback on other daily habits, it’s easier than you think to fit them in throughout your day.

For all of these stretches, hold each side for at least 30 seconds, working up to one minute per side. If you can’t hold for 30 seconds, you are probably stretching too deeply! Remember, less is more. Some people notice a difference immediately. Even so, it can take 12 to 16 weeks of daily gentle stretching, multiple times daily to retrain your muscles for lasting relief.

1.) Stretch your hip flexor (psoas) muscles. [Photo at right.] Step one foot on a stair, bench or low chair, bending that knee. Stand up tall out of your straight leg on the floor until you feel a gentle stretch in the front pocket area of the standing leg. For some people, this exercise works better as a lunge, stretching the front pocket area of the back leg.

2.) Stretch your thighs. Hold your foot, rest your shin on a chair, kneel, or any variation that lengthens the front (tops) of your thighs. Keep your knees close together, rather than winging out to one side. You want to feel a gentle stretch in the middle of your thigh, not close to your knee.

3.) Stretch your outer hip muscles. Any cross body twist will do this, including sitting with one knee crossed over the other, and turning until you feel a gentle stretch on the outer side of your hip. [Photo at left.] Another easy way to stretch the outer hip muscle is to lie on your back and bring one knee across your body. If there’s any strain, rest your knee on a pillow. Extend your hip away from your torso and adjust your leg position until you feel a gentle stretch on the top outer hip.

4.) Stretch your chest. Simply open your arms wide, rotate your arms so your palms face forward, and gently squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades to draw your arms back.

Pain Specialist Ginny Hamilton studied Integrated Positional Therapy (IPT) with its founder, Lee Albert at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA. A certified yoga instructor and Reiki Master Teacher, Hamilton offers classes and private sessions in Amherst, Hadley, and South Hadley. Contact her at

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