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Back and Neck Care

The Side Stretch: A Gentle Exercise

The side stretch exercise stretches and strengthens the intercostal muscles, (the muscles between the ribs), which help support the ribs.

To do the side stretch:

  • Sit in a sturdy chair with your feet flat on the floor or stand with feet hip width apart.

  • Lean forward slightly to keep from "hunching" your back and shoulders.

  • Keep your hips, shoulders, and ears in a straight up-and-down line.

  • Raise your right arm overhead and bend your upper body to the left in a reaching motion. Keep your upper body facing straight ahead — don't twist it to the side as you bend.

  • Make sure you feel the muscles gently stretch all along your side from your lower back up to your shoulder.

  • Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat the stretch 2 times.

  • Switch sides and do the stretch in the opposite direction. Repeat twice. 

Demonstration of the side stretch beginning position.
Demonstration of the side stretch beginning position.

Illustration of a man demonstrating a side stretch.
Demonstration of a side stretch

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, MEd
Date Last Reviewed: 2/3/2015
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