Here are a few stretches that most people find helpful for increasing flexibility and reducing stiffness and pain. It is important to understand that if any of these stretches causes pain, increases pain or causes any new symptoms, STOP IMMEDIATELY!
This stretches the pectoral muscles in the front of the chest. What is most interesting, is that this reflexively relaxes the upper back and neck muscles as well (Through a physiological law called reciprocal inhibition). Find an empty corner. Place your hands against the wall at shoulder height. Put one foot into the corner and bend that knee slightly. Slowly lean into the corner, or let gravity push you into the corner (Avoid bending at the waist by leaning your whole body into the corner.) Exhale as you bend into the corner. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. Avoid quick movements and avoid "bouncing" when your in the corner. Next raise your hands higher about six inches and repeat. Then six inches lower from original position and repeat. This stretch is a must if you work on a computer or at a desk all day.
Passive Neck Ranges of Motion
Gentle end-range stretches are helpfull in alleviating stiffness and interrupting prolonged static positions. Bend your head to either side, then gently pull further into the direction of your stretch with your hand on your head a very short distance. You should feel a gentle pull. Repeat with forward and backward bending. Repeat with head rotation to either side. Avoid stretches that combine movements such as lateral bending with rotation. Keep the stretches in one plane of motion at all times. If you feel pain during any of these stretches, you might have a ligamentous sprain and it may warrant further evaluation.
Cervical Towel Stretch and Support
To help support the curve in your neck, roll up a small bath towel into a log. Make it between 2-3 inches thick (you can adjust the thickness later to get the best fit for you). Lie down on a bed and place the roll in the small of your neck. Relax a few minutes and see how this feels. Purchase a cervical pillow that allows for neck support in different positions of sleep. The best types are regular sized pillows with centers that are "hollowed out" (Tri-Core or D-Core) which allow for support when you turn onto your side as well as on your back. Allow a period of transition of about 1-2 weeks to get used to your new pillow. Once you use it you'll never go back.
Williams flexion I - Knee to chest
Lie on your back on a firm surface with your hips and knees bent and feet flat on the surface. Grab one knee and bring it to your chest.
Stop when you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds. Slowly return leg to starting position.
Williams Flexion II - Double Knee to Chest
Lie on your back on a firm surface with your hips and knees bent and feet flat on the surface. Lifting one leg at a time, pull both knees toward your shoulders. Stop when you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold for 30 seconds. Return legs, one at a time, to starting position.
Get down on your hands and knees. Slowly let your stomach sag towards the floor in order to get movement throughout your back and pelvis.
Next, slowly arch your back away from the floor towards the ceiling like an angry cat, hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
This stretch is good to use for low back pain and tightness in the back of the hip and gluteal region. Start by lying on the floor. Grab one leg behind the knee and pull it to your opposite shoulder. You should feel a good stretch in your gluteal muscles. Try increasing the stretch by bringing the leg across your body. Hold this for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.
Lying on your back, place the ends of a bath towel in both hands and loop it around one foot. Slowly pull with both hands to raise the leg into the air, gently stretching the hamstring muscle behind the thigh. Be mindfull to raise you leg with your arms only, not your leg muscles. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. Repeat on opposite leg. You will know that you are effectively stretching the hamstring muscle if you feel tightness/burning behind your knee and thigh.