Regardless of whether you work at a desk, are active or sedentary, it’s important to keep your back stretched and supple to reduce the potential for injury. There are a number of stretches that help – not just for people with back pain, but also for people who are trying to avoid the potential for back pain.

The spinal twist is a gentle, easy stretch that targets the mid-back; depending on a person’s flexibility, it may also cause a stretch in the front of the shoulder. Regardless of where you feel the stretch, be sure to back off if it is causing you pain or feels too intense. It is not actually helpful to overstretch an area — it causes the muscle to resist instead of relax.

For the spinal twist, lay on your back with your knees up and your feet planted flat on the floor. Start with your arms straight out in a “T” from your shoulders. Gently bring your knees in toward your chest, then let them fall together over to the right side. Breathe into this stretch for about 15 seconds as your back starts to loosen. Bring your legs back up and let them fall to the left side and repeat.

Once you have completed the initial stretch on both sides, repeat the exercise while turning your head to the opposite side as the direction your knees are facing. For example, if your knees are on the floor to the right, turn your head gently to the left.

Once you’re feeling a little more limber — which may take longer intervals in the pose — bring your legs up to center again. Let them roll gently to the floor to the right while simultaneously straightening your arms in front of you and twisting your upper body to the left. Hold this pose for 10 to 15 breaths, trying to relax. Switch sides, moving your legs to the left and your arms to the right, and repeat.

Spinal twist