Key Stretches to Prevent Back Pain
In this week's Wellness Report: last week we talked about back pain - and the cost to you and your employer his week: we talk to a fitness expert--and learn the best ways to prevent a serious problem.

Hours sitting at your desk, your computer, long-road trips, our lifestyles are translating into a lot of stress on the back. Fitness expert Tim Koffler shows us some simple exercises to ease the pain.

"Depending on where the pain is it can indicate a number of things," says Koffler.

Koffler, Seattle Athletic Club Fitness Director, says even his star clients have been brought down by back pain.

"It's not until the pain becomes enough that they actually decide this is affecting my quality of life and need to do something."

Koffler says any sharp or shooting pains - especially down the legs or the middle of the spine - means it's time to see a doctor, but for many of us a few simple stretches at work and at home can make a big difference.

"Our posture is typically really bad especially in a chair at work."

He says he recommends a fit ball to a lot of his clients.

"For most people it helps keep them in better posture," says Koffler.

Next: get up and walk around for a couple minutes every hour and try these 4 simple stretches you can do at your desk," says Koffler.

"Interlace fingers behind the back bring chest up as high as you can and raise your arms behind you that will give you a stretch through the chest and the shoulders. Put one hand underneath your chair and just hold on."

"Take other hand and place it on your ear and gently lean away from the hand that's holding your chair."

"Roll your chin forward about 45 degrees toward your chest and you're going to feel that stretch more towards the back of the neck."

He says sitting at a desk for long periods of time, can lead to a weak core and tight leg muscles- both primary contributors to back pain. Here are a couple of lower body stretches.

"Straighten one leg, push your heel into the floor, lean forward trying to keep your back in a neutral or flattened position. Cross the ankle over onto the knee. This will move the stretch from the hamstring to the glute and you're going to lean forward again to Increase intensity of the stretch as well."

Koffler says each muscle has a sensor in it that detects how long that muscle is - to keep you from over stretching, but you can push it to the next level by just holding longer.

"It takes about 10 seconds for you to release that muscle and feel the benefit of the stretch so if you're not holding for at least 20 seconds you're probably not getting the benefit of that stretch."