The Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain
Your back feels stiff and the discomfort is affecting your movement, causing you difficulty in standing straight or getting through the regular motions of daily life. This is a common condition. Almost 31 million Americans are suffering from back pain, says the American Chiropractic Association, and it can strike at any moment, sometimes seemingly without reason.
There are two types of lower back pain: acute and chronic. Acute back pain develops suddenly and lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Chronic back pain, on the other hand, often lasts for 12 weeks or longer.
The most common cause of lower back pain is torn or pulled muscles and/or ligaments triggered by:
- Sudden movements.
- Working out without warming up.
- Heavy lifting.
- Poor posture.
You can also get lower back pain when you are stuck in an uncomfortable position for a long period, like when you’re sitting down all day working on your computer – especially if your chair does not provide the proper support.
Accidents and injuries are two more culprits. This can be a serious case. If you feel numbness, weakness, or a slight tingling in the legs as a side effect of your injury, we recommend you call your doctor immediately.
For most mild lower back pain, you can alleviate the soreness by applying cold or hot therapy, and by doing these stretches:
The Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain
Knee to Chest
Designed to help align the pelvis and to stretch your lower back and rear end muscles, this exercise will help you ease your lower back pain.
To do the knee to chest stretch, first lay flat on your back. Your toes should be pointing upward. Bend your right knee and then gently and carefully pull your leg up toward your chest. Hold the position for 20 seconds before slowly extending it back to your starting position. Replicate the motion with your left leg. Do this three times.
Seated Figure Four Stretch
This exercise targets your piriformis muscle, which is located in your buttocks. It starts at the lower spine and connects to the upper surface of your thighbone. This exercise stretches the hip muscles and helps alleviate your lower back pain.
To start with the seated figure four stretch, sit with your knees bent and with both feet flat on the floor. Lift your right foot and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. This movement opens the knee to the right side.
Keep your back straight and then lean forward gently. Keep this position for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat the movement on the other side. Do this exercise three times.
This exercise can be modified by sitting on a cushion or a chair.
Knee rolls are another excellent exercise for relieving lower back pain.
Before doing the knee rolls stretch, prepare a cushion for your head. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your upper body relaxed. Gently roll your knees to one side while keeping your shoulders flat on the floor. Hold the position for five seconds and then go back to the starting position. Roll your knees to the other side and hold it for five more seconds. Repeat the motion on both sides 10 times.
Bottom to Heels Stretch
This stretching exercise targets your latissimus dorsi and erector spinae.
To start doing the bottom to heels stretch, first, kneel on all fours with your knees positioned under your hips and your hands situated under your shoulders. Keep your back and neck straight. Slowly move your bottom back toward your heels and hold the position for five seconds before relaxing back to the starting position. Repeat this motion 10 times.
Cat-Cow Yoga Pose
Studies show yoga is an effective way to help reduce back pain (1). The cat-cow yoga pose is one of many excellent stretches you can do to ease the soreness.
Begin by kneeling on all fours. Position your hands under your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Slowly arch your spine as you exhale and hold the pose for 10 seconds. Inhale, tighten your core muscles, and round your back – just like a cat – and hold the pose for another 10 seconds. Repeat this movement 10 times.
The cobra stretch is another helpful yoga pose you can do to ease your lower back pain. This movement stretches your abdominal muscles and your lower back.
Start by lying on your stomach. Keep your legs extended and plant your palms on either side of your head. Your elbows and forearms should be positioned flat on the floor. Gently push your body upward – without lifting your hips – and keep your weight on your forearms until you get into a position where you feel the stretch in your abdominals and lower back.
Hold this position for 10 seconds before relaxing and then returning to the starting pose. Repeat this movement five times.
The child’s pose elongates your lower back, helps open the hips, and is a slight variation of the bottom to heels stretch.
To do the child’s pose, start by kneeling upright and then lower your bottom to your heels, bending your knees and pushing your hips backward. Once you’ve reached a comfortable position, extend your arms forward. Hold the pose for 20 seconds before going back to the starting position.
These stretching exercises can all help reduce lower back pain. Try executing them to help ease the soreness and always be mindful of your form.
It's important to note people who practice a sedentary lifestyle are more prone to suffering acute lower back pain. Furthermore, research has found no amount of physical activity can undo excessive sitting. In other words, if you sit too much, you might still experience persistent back pain no matter how many stretches you do.
Thus, throughout the workday, you should make a point of getting out of your chair and getting your blood flowing. Go for a short walk, try some of these stretches, or do something else to open your body up.
One of the reasons we love stretching is because you can do it just about anywhere. Plus, yoga mats are easy to carry around. We recommend you purchase your own mat. BalancePal is one of our favorites!
- “Yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of the literature”, Chang, Douglas G., et al., 2016.