Day to day, your spine might seem like it’s in pretty good shape. You might not notice anything during your workout classes or work day that would make you think otherwise. But all that hunching can really take a toll—whether it’s sitting at your laptop or watching videos on your phone—and it might be affecting your mobility more than you realize. A simple spine mobility test can tell you where you stand, so to speak.
Physical therapist Joe Gambino, DPT, says a “healthy spine is a spine that moves,” and he recently shared two spine mobility exercises that will let you feel how mobile your spine actually is. “They offer great feedback on how well your spine moves,” he wrote on Instagram. They’re simple to do, too. In the first exercise, you start with your back to the wall and your arms crossed over your chest with your fingers on your shoulders. Slowly round your head toward the ground, then return the back of your head to the wall, as shown in the video below.
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In the second exercise, stand facing something you can wrap your arms around, like a pole or column. Wrap your arms around it, holding it with your hands. Then—keeping your heels on the floor, and your toes slightly lifted—slowly lift your gaze toward the ceiling as much as you can while keeping your chest to the pole. “When performing both of these, try to move one spinal segment at a time and create as much flexion or extension as possible,” he says.
There’s a good chance you’ll feel a lot tighter and more immobile than you thought you’d be while performing these exercises. Unless you’re already doing spine mobility exercises regularly, it’s hard not to be. And if that’s the case, it’s just all the more reason to start adding them into your daily routine. Having a strong and flexible spine can prevent neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, and injuries—all things that can keep you from feeling your best every day. Luckily, it’s never too late to start improving your spine health—sometimes you just need a little wake-up call to get started.