Home Healthy Body Best Stretches For Lower Back Pain That Work (How to Stretch Lower Back)

Best Stretches For Lower Back Pain That Work (How to Stretch Lower Back)

by Elly McGuinness
Published: Last Updated on

Your lower back pain could have you in a state of mild discomfort in the form of stiffness, and maybe a dull ache. At the extreme end, it can be debilitating.

Back pain can prevent you from moving freely and doing the things you love.

Practicing a gentle routine of the best lower back stretches for pain relief can form part of an effective approach to preventing, managing, and improving your lower back pain.

The seven simple stretches we’re sharing today could be just what you need to take control of your lower back pain, and start feeling better today.

Common causes of lower back pain

Lower back pain is a widespread problem that can have many contributing factors.

Sometimes, it could be a lasting reminder of a previous injury.

In other instances, it can be the result of poor posture and movement patterns, and resulting muscle imbalances.

Lower back pain can affect you if you live an active lifestyle.

It can also become a problem if you’re in a more sedentary desk-bound role.

The causes of lower back pain aren’t always purely mechanical.

Social, psychological, and biological factors can all interact to make it a complex issue to treat.

In any case, it’s important to understand the reasons you are getting lower back pain.

When you can identify what is triggering the pain, you’ll be in a better position to treat it effectively.

Possible treatment options for lower back pain

First, it’s important to seek medical advice if you have extreme, or chronic (ongoing) back pain.

Each person requires an individualized strategy for improving their lower back pain.

With an approach that is not specific to your needs, your back pain could end up becoming worse.

There is a wide range of professionals who can offer treatments for back pain.

These include physical therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, and physiotherapists.

Some modalities offer a more holistic approach than others.

Many therapists combine a variety of techniques based on what they believe is best for the individual.

Many simple exercises can also help treat lower back pain.

Lifestyle adjustments are also an important consideration for tackling the root cause of the problem.

The best news is that there are many ways to relieve, manage, and even prevent pain in your lower back.

Exercises for lower back pain

Some of the best exercises for low back pain may include:

  • Lower back pain stretches. These could be targeted specifically at the lower back muscles, or at surrounding muscles that may be pulling on the lower back and creating tension
  • Strengthening exercises for the lower back, abdominal muscles, or other surrounding muscles. It’s not always tight muscles, but sometimes weak muscles that could be causing lower back pain
  • Mobility-based exercises that focus on better full-body movement, or perhaps releasing trigger points that are causing restriction

Out of all these lower back pain exercises, today we’re focusing specifically on some of the best stretches for lower back pain.

How to stretch your lower back

There are some general important points to note about the following back stretches for lower back pain.

Most importantly, the stretches listed below are not personalized.

Depending on your default posture and the balance of muscle groups in your body, some of these low back stretches may be more effective for you than others.

Although these stretches are designed to be gentle, stop doing them and seek medical advice if they make your pain worse.

General guidelines for back stretching exercises

  • Some of the stretches may not target your lower back directly. They purposely focus on releasing surrounding muscle groups that could be causing your lower back pain. If the selected stretch doesn’t directly stretch your lower back, we’ve explained why it could be crucial for improving your back pain
  • The stretches we are focusing on today are mostly static. This means that they are stretches that you hold in one position for a set time. Static stretches should feel relaxing. They are generally easy to perform safely. Studies have shown that both dynamic and static stretches can be effective for relieving back pain
  • Take each stretch to the point where you can feel your muscles stretch, without feeling any pain
  • Breathe continuously during each exercise. This will help you to relax into the stretch and release tension
  • Except where noted, aim to hold each posture for about 30 seconds. You may wish to repeat the exercises for a second round

Finally, stretching is easier and more safely done when your muscles are warm. Perform these exercises after a 5-minute general warm-up, or at the end of your workout.

Best Exercises For Lower Back Pain – 7 Powerful Back / Spine Stretching Exercises

Best Stretches For Lower Back Pain

The following stretches for back pain have been ordered to create a nice flowing sequence.

They’ll take you from your hands and knees, down to your stomach, and then over to your back.

These are all floor-based exercises, which should help you to relax and release tension even further.

After practicing these exercises consistently you should start to learn what works best for you.

From there, you can tweak your stretching routine so that it’s just right for you.

1) Cat-cow stretch

Cat Cow Stretch

The cat-cow stretch is a stretching exercise that’s not static.

It offers a fluid, and continuous movement to gently release through your spine.

It’s a nice one to start with before you move on to the static postures.

a) Cat-cow starting position

To perform the cat-cow stretch, place your hands and knees on the ground.

Your knees should be directly under your hips, and also hip-width apart.

Extend your arms directly under your shoulders and place your hands shoulder-distance apart.

Roll your shoulders back and down so that they’re away from your ears.

Keep your spine long, and become aware of your abdominal muscles by gently drawing your belly button towards your spine.

b) Cat-cow movement phase

Move into the “cow” phase of the cat-cow stretch by looking up, and letting your abdominals drop down so that you have a gentle arch through your back.

You should feel the stretch through the front side of your torso.

Then transition to the “cat” phase of the cat-cow stretch.

Tuck your hips under, dropping your chin towards your chest, and rounding through your back.

You’ll feel a nice stretch through the full length of your back.

Continue to transition between cat and cow for 30-60 seconds.

Practical Video

2) Child’s pose

Child's pose - arms extended

Child’s pose – Arms extended

From cat-cow, you can easily relax back into child’s pose.

From your hands and knees position, simply let your buttocks drop back towards your feet.

Don’t worry if your buttocks don’t reach your feet.

This is simply the direction you’re aiming for.

If you feel like it’s hard to relax completely in this position, try placing a pillow in between your buttocks and knees to help support your body a little more.

Stretch your arms out in front for a more active child’s pose.

Or you can place your arms along your sides if it’s more comfortable.

The latter position is often called embryo pose.

Embryo Pose

In child’s pose, your spine will be in a gently rounded position.

Hold this pose for 30 seconds, or for up to a minute if it feels good to do so.

Child’s pose can help to relieve low back pain by offering a gentle stretch through the full length of the back muscles.

Practical Video

 

3) Sphinx pose

Sphinx pose

Sphinx pose

The sphinx pose offers a lovely counter position to child’s pose.

It provides a great stretch through the abdominal muscles (core muscles) and into the front of the hips and chest.

This can be an especially useful stretch if you spend long periods sitting down with your hips flexed.

From child’s pose, slowly make your way down to your stomach.

To perform the sphinx stretch, lie flat on the floor with your legs extended, feet flat on the floor, and hip-width apart.

Gently prop yourself up onto your elbows and ensure your elbows are directly below your shoulders.

Draw your shoulders down away from your ears.

You should feel this stretch through your core muscles and maybe into your hips and chest.

To enhance the stretch, lift your chin and gently draw the shoulder blades back.

This will further open the chest muscles.

For an advanced version of this stretch, you can extend your arms with your hands flat on the floor.

Your shoulders should still be drawn back and down.

This is also known as “upward dog” pose.

Practical Video

4) Double knee hug

Double knee hug

Double knee hug

From the sphinx pose, gently lower yourself back to the floor.

Then roll over to lie on your back.

Get yourself into the stretch gently, firstly with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Extend your arms forward to reach around your legs, just below your knees.

You may need to lift your head off the floor to get into this stretch.

When you’re hugging your knees, lower your head back down to the floor and keep your neck long.

Gently pull your legs toward your chest to feel a nice stretch through the full length of the spine.

This stretch can help your low back pain in a similar way to child’s pose.

You’ve pretty much just reversed your position on the floor.

Practical Video

5) Single leg glute stretch

Single leg glute stretch-side-view

Single leg glute stretch-side-view

Any physical therapist or good personal trainer knows that tight (and often weak) glute muscles are a common cause of low back pain.

This single-leg glute stretch is a variation on the classic knee to chest stretch.

It’s also slightly different from the piriformis stretch, which is often prescribed for low back pain.

We’ve chosen this variation because it can often be an easier starting point for people with lower back pain.

To start this stretch, lie on your back on the floor with your head on the floor, spine long and legs extended flat on the ground.

Flex your right knee and hip, and take hold of the right leg.

Place your right hand around the outside of your right knee, and reach your left hand through to take hold of the outside of the right foot.

Gently pull your knee and foot closer toward your chest, and slightly towards the left shoulder.

Do so until you feel a nice level of tension through your right buttock.

Breathe continuously and hold this pose for 30 seconds.

Repeat the exercise on your left leg.

6) Single leg hamstring stretch

Single leg hamstring stretch

Single leg hamstring stretch

Depending on your posture and muscle balance, your low back pain may be coming from your hamstrings.

These are the muscles that run down the back of your leg.

It makes sense that tight hamstring muscles can cause lower back pain because, at the top end, they attach to your hip.

To perform this stretch, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Start by extending your right leg up above your hip and clasping your hands behind the back of your thigh.

Keep your spine long and hips flat on the floor.

Draw your right leg closer toward your chest, and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Rest and then repeat this exercise on the left leg.

It’s ok to keep the knee slightly bent in the leg you’re stretching.

As your flexibility increases, you may be able to straight it a little more or reach your hands behind your calf muscles.

To perform a more advanced version of this posture, you can extend your bottom leg flat on the floor.

7) Gentle spinal twist

Gentle spinal twist

You can perform a spinal twist for lower back pain in a sitting, or a lying down position.

We’re going to stay on the floor for this exercise.

Done well, a good spinal twist can offer a nice release for your muscles down the full length of your spine, and even into your hips.

To get into the starting position for this stretch, lie on your back with your neck straight, and spine long. Keep both of your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Extend your arms straight out to the side.

You might want to start this low backstretch with a bit of movement by repeating it a few times on each side.

Slowly drop your knees down to one side, and then the other.

Repeat this fluid movement a few times on each side, and then hold the posture for 30 seconds on one side.

Keep both shoulders on the floor as you do so.

Repeat on the other side.

Practical Video

Final points on stretches for lower back pain

A regular stretching routine is one approach that may help to relieve your lower back pain.

A good stretching plan can help reduce tension through your low back muscles.

It can also release other areas of your body that may be affecting your lower back and overall health in general.

Remember that a personalized approach to stretching is always best.

Many factors can contribute to lower back pain.

Some of the other muscle groups you may need to look at stretching for back pain include the quads, hip flexors, and tensor fasciae latae.

If your back muscles feel better with these stretches, then great!

Keep doing them!

For chronic or severe lower back pain, it’s important to seek medical advice.

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