Stretching to avoid back pain
Ceramics is wonderful for your soul and spirit, yet it can be a strain for your neck and back. It is easy to hurt your back while hunching over the potter’s wheel or bent over a table decorating your pot. Sometimes picking up a heavy bag of clay can put a strain on your body and cause soreness in the back and neck. To make sure everyone stays fit and healthy at the studio here are some general recommendations for warming up and stretching your body before you start your work.
Its important to remember while at the studio to warm up your muscles before starting to work, taking regular breaks, stretching, and changing up your patterns. Always try not to force your muscles to stay in the same position for a long time. Always bend your knees when lifting objects and keep in mind pottery should not hurt; immediately stop should you feel any pain.
We recommend for wheel throwers, to throw with the wheel turning one direction, and do your trimming turning the opposite to avoid from bending over on the same side always. This stops the sustained contractions for specific muscles of the back and neck, allowing you to bend to one side throwing and bend to the other side for trimming.
Standing for a long time or bend over a sculpture will also strain your legs and back. Always stand with both feel firm on the ground hip width apart. Try to shift your weight from your toes to your heals regularly. Don’t lock your knees for long and take a short walk around every 30 mins to keep your body relaxed.
When wedging clay, you must be using your own body weight to move the clay rather than just pushing with the shoulders and hands. If you find yourself using your shoulders too much, try wedging on a lower table and keep your neck, back, and shoulders relaxed which will take the pressure off the wrists.
Start with these simple stretching exercises. Also watching this video to stretching your fingers : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZLFWwXb5fc
Flexion Stretch - Chin to Chest
While standing or sitting, gently bend the head forward while bringing the chin toward the chest until a stretch is felt in the back of neck.
Lateral Flexion - Ear to Shoulder
This exercise stretches the neck area below the ears as well as the top of the shoulder. To begin, gently bend the neck to one side as if to touch the ear to the shoulder until a stretch is felt in the side of the neck. Switch to stretch the other side.
Back Exercise Stretches
Many with back pain know the feeling of tension in the back, especially first thing in the morning. These stretching back exercises can help bring back some suppleness and increase mobility, decreasing back pain and discomfort.
Back Flexion Exercise
While lying on one's back, pull both knees to the chest while simultaneously flexing the head forward until a comfortable stretch is felt in a balled-up position.
Knee to Chest Stretch
While lying on the back with the knees bent and both heels on the floor, place both hands behind one knee and bring it to the chest.
While standing with feet shoulder-width apart, take a half-step back with the right foot, bend the left knee and shift weight back to the right hip. While keeping the right leg straight, bend forward more and reach down the right leg until a stretch in the outer hip is felt.
General tips for stetching:
Wear comfortable clothes that won't bind
Stretching should be pain free; do not force the body into difficult positions
Move into the stretch slowly and avoid bouncing, which may actually tear muscles
Stretch on a clean, flat surface that is large enough to move freely
Hold stretches long enough (20-30 seconds) to allow muscles or joints to become loose
Repeat the stretch, generally 5-10 times