Many of the best exercises for stretching the back come from yoga, various martial arts, and pilates. These back stretches should be gentle and used to alleviate stiff muscle groups caused by stress or pain. The old saying “no pain, no gain” does not apply here. The last thing you want to do is irritate these muscles or cause any injuries.
The various exercises we will introduce here can be done in different settings and by anyone regardless of their age or level of physical fitness. It is always good to have options when it comes to back pain. It can happen anywhere or anytime, and it’s good to know that you have the ability to help yourself.
Most lower back stretches are designed to elongate the spine and gently stretch the muscles that support it. Most people who complain about back pain say that it affects their lower back. This is because we lose flexibility in our back due to immobility and aging. The lower part of the back is also the most common place where individuals experience injuries. Women in particular experience lower back pain in conjunction with their menstrual cycle and throughout pregnancy.
When certain circumstances require that you be in one position for a long time, you can benefit from shifting a bit, stretching gently, and taking frequent breaks. This can be done while you are standing. Using a small step stool, rest alternating feet on the step as you stand to reduce the strain on your lower back.
If you have to sit stationary at a desk or in a vehicle for longer periods of time, get up and move around whenever possible. Take frequent breaks and stretch your legs, back, etc. By moving around, you can decrease stress on different parts of your lower back and increase circulation in those areas as well. If you can’t get up and walk around, you can do some simple stretching exercises while seated.
Let’s first take a look at some stretches for the lower back that can be done in the office or other public places. These basic lumbar stretches can be done in a sitting position or even while standing. Some great seated stretches for the lower back include:
- Forward bending — Lean forward and allow your chest to fall toward your knees with your arms reaching toward your feet. Slowly bending forward, relax your muscles for three to five seconds and then slowly rise back up again.
- Reach for the stars — Raise both arms above your head and lean slightly backward. You can then place your hands behind your head with elbows bent and stretch backwards a little more.
- Twist — This can be done two different ways. The first position is to twist your torso to the left or right and keep your hips in place. For additional stretching, you can hold onto the armrests of a chair and twist even more for a stronger stretch.
Other general stretches for the lower back are best when they are done at home or in a gym. These are some of the best exercises for lower back pain and include basic yoga moves that are done on the floor with a mat. They include:
- spine twist
- cat and cow
- sphinx pose
- downward facing dog
- threading the needle
Many of the gentle stretches that are used as warm-up exercises are great back stretches for flexibility. The flexibility of your back is one of the most important factors in keeping it healthy and pain-free. When our back becomes inflexible, the muscles can spasm and nerves can be pinched. All of these conditions can lead to back pain.
These exercises are performed seated on the floor or standing. Some of these lower back stretches include the following yoga poses:
- child’s pose
- cobra pose
- double knees to chest
- extended side angle pose
- standing forward bend
- prone backbends
Exercises that strengthen the core muscles can also help alleviate lower back pain and prevent injuries.
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Once again, these exercises are all low impact and can be performed by beginners. Once you have mastered these, additional exercises can be added, or you can try adding some light weights to your routine. When it comes to lower back strengthening, it’s all about strengthening the core muscles of the torso. These primarily include the abdominal muscles.
In order to strengthen your lower back, you need to exercise your abs. This may sound strange, but it’s true! The following are some great lower back strengthening exercises that you can do at home or in the gym. The key to these exercises is to focus on the core muscles and make sure that you are performing them correctly.
- Hip lifts — Lying with your back on the floor, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor so that they are approximately one to two feet away from your buttocks. Now slowly lift your butt off the floor while tightening your abdominal muscles. Hold this position for 10 seconds then slowly lower yourself back to the floor. Repeat 10–15 times.
- Plank — Start out lying on your stomach with your elbows tucked in under your shoulders. Tighten your abs and push yourself up on your toes and your forearms with your elbows bent. Your back and legs should be as straight as possible. Hold this position for 10–15 seconds and then lower yourself back to the floor, keeping the abs tight. Relax and repeat 10 times.
- Abdominal crunch — The key to an abdominal crunch is to use the abdominal muscles only! Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor (a modified position is to place your lower legs on a chair). Place your hands at your sides. This prevents you from trying to lift your neck and upper back off the floor with your arms. Now tighten your abs and lift your shoulders slightly off the floor. Try to concentrate on using your abs to complete this motion and not your upper body. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly lay back flat. Repeat 10–15 times.
We hope that you find these stretching exercises for the back helpful and that they provide some relief for any back pain you experience. If you ever experience pain, numbness, or tingling when performing these exercises, you should stop.
This could be a sign that you’re not performing the exercise correctly, or you may have an injury that you weren’t aware of. If these symptoms continue or worsen, contact your primary care provider for an evaluation. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
This is especially important if you are pregnant, have recently had a baby, or have been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition.