Problem-solving stretches: Are you sitting down?

Odds are the answer is yes. Meet two stretches designed to relieve low back pain.

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a front pocket stretch, which helps to lengthen the psoas muscles.

  • The reclining chair posture releases muscle tension built up from too much sitting.

For the Gazette
Published: 5/20/2019 4:43:00 PM


About a quarter of us sit for more than 8 hours every day, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in November. And 80 percent of adults will experience low back pain in our lifetimes according to the National Institutes of Health.

Coincidence? I think not.

Let me introduce you to your psoas muscles. They run — one on each side of your body — between the top of your thigh bone, through your pelvis, and connect to your low back (lumbar) vertebrae.

Sitting contracts these muscles. Sitting for a long time trains these muscles to stay short. Most exercise also shortens these muscles, toning them to make them stronger. See the problem? This is why your low back might not feel so good after sitting for too long and why exercise alone may not help.

This used to be true for Ted Rosenholm of East Longmeadow. At 37, Rosenholm commutes about 30 minutes each way to his job in accounting. He then heads to the gym to work out and, in season, to the baseball field. Three years ago, he came to work with me to address the consistent pain in his back, hips and legs. His father suffers from debilitating lower back pain and he was looking for a way to prevent a similar future.

Rosenholm’s made some simple changes with significant results. His workouts focus more on back body exercises to build strength to balance his strong psoas and thighs. He takes frequent breaks from his desk to move and stretch, particularly the front pocket stretch to lengthen his psoas muscles. And he regularly uses the reclining chair posture to release the muscle tension built up from too much sitting. You can, too!

The front pocket stretch

■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.

■Hold each side for at least 30 seconds, working up to 1 minute per side.

■If you can’t hold for 30 seconds, you are in too deep! Remember, less is more.

The reclining chair

■Lie on the floor on your back, with your legs fully supported by a chair, couch, or low bench.

■Bend your knees at a right angle, so your hips are close to whatever is supporting your legs, as if you were sitting in a chair, tipped on its back.

■Breathe deeply to allow the muscles in your hips, belly, and back to fully soften. Rest here for at least 2 minutes.

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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