Back & SpineFlow through the Aches: 4 Lower Back Pain Stretches

Flow through the Aches: 4 Lower Back Pain Stretches

Lower back pain is becoming more common throughout the United States. There are many reasons behind this pain—from work strain or poor posture to spinal issues or underlying medical conditions, countless factors can contribute to this type of pain. So, what can be done about it?

One of the most effective ways to relieve discomfort is to do lower back pain stretches. Before doing any stretches, be sure to check in with your doctor, physical therapist, or other trusted health care expert to make sure that you can perform these safely. And, as always, listen to your body to understand what feels good and where your limit is. That said, let’s flow into 4 lower back pain stretches that can help you through the aches.

1. Cat-Cow

Cat Cow Stretches

The first lower back pain stretch that you can try would be cat-cow. Cat-cow is a pose that’s often done in yoga or used in physical therapy to relieve neck, back, and hip pain. The name says it all: you will replicate the posture of a cat before flowing through to a cow-like position.

For this pose, you begin on all fours. This is sometimes called tabletop position, as your back should be flat enough to balance a cup on it. Having the proper starting posture is essential to getting the right stretch. In tabletop, be sure to tighten your abdominal muscles and keep your hips, spine, and head in alignment.

From here, you will begin to create a curve in your spine as you arch your back toward the ceiling. Drop your head and round your shoulders. Your position will mimic a startled cat and you should feel a stretch throughout your back and shoulders.

Once you have completed cat, you will lower the curve of your spine back into a neutral position as you prepare for cow pose. For cow, you will drop your belly and lift your pelvis. Your head will also lift with this pose, creating a gentle stretch throughout the lower back as well as the back of the neck.

You can return to the starting position and repeat these movements as many times as needed. Some people create a flow of movement between these poses by dropping into cow on an inhale and arching into cat on an exhale. Doing the proper breathing techniques while stretching is proven to help elongate the muscles and make the stretches a little easier.

2. Knee to Chest Stretch for Back Pain

Knee to Chest Stretch for Back PainWith this lower back pain stretch, you are working to target the muscles in your back near your pelvis as well as your hamstrings. This simple stretch begins with you lying on your back on a flat surface, such as the floor or a physical therapy table. Make sure that your lower back is touching the surface—otherwise, you could strain your back muscles further.

You will start with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Then you will secure your hands behind one knee and gently guide it toward your chest. This will stretch the muscles of the lower back. You might also feel this stretch throughout your bottom and in your hip flexors. Once you have completed the stretch on one side, you will lower the lifted leg and switch to the other one.

3. Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is known as a restorative pose in yoga, meaning that you can gather energy and reset your mind in this position—but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t serve as a great lower back pain stretch as well. For this pose, you will start on your knees and lower yourself until your bottom touches your heels. Then, you will start to lean forward and allow your belly to touch your thighs.

In the full stretch, your forehead will touch the ground. If you’re unable to reach this point at first, don’t push yourself. Instead, modify the pose as needed by going up on your toes or putting a pillow underneath to give yourself a bit more space in the stretch.

There are a few variations to child’s pose involving where you place your knees and arms. You can stretch your arms out above your head to get a deeper stretch in your upper back and shoulders in addition to the lower back. However, you might choose to rest your arms at your sides instead. Additionally, you can place your knees together so that they touch or you can touch your feet together and spread your knees in a V shape. This will depend on if you have chronic knee pain or any other trouble areas. 

4. Piriformis Stretch for Back Pain

Piriformis Stretch for Back Pain

Lastly, the piriformis stretch is great for alleviating lower back pain that shoots through the buttocks, as this is where the piriformis muscle is located. This is also known as sciatic nerve pain. It can greatly impact one’s ability to walk, sit, and stand for long periods of time.

In a seated position in a chair, you will cross one leg above the knee of the other leg. Your crossed leg should be as parallel with the floor as possible. From here, you can deepen the stretch by leaning forward. You have the option to do this stretch lying down as well, as long as it doesn’t cause more back pain. In this position, you do not lean forward to deepen the stretch—instead, you pull the legs toward your chest, similar to the knee to chest pose.

This stretch can feel intense if you lean into it too quickly. Take your time and only go until you feel a comfortable stretch before moving yourself into a deeper pull.

Finding the Perfect Stretch for Back Pain

It’s important to note that not all of these stretches will work for everyone. Doing these stretches shouldn’t cause any further pain and if they do, be sure to stop the action, carefully get out of the stretch, and assess your symptoms. Sometimes, modifications are necessary to make these stretches more accessible, depending on levels of flexibility as well as pain.

If you’re looking for guidance or support on this stretch or any others, consider reaching out to other people who have chronic low back pain to know what works and doesn’t work for them. It might help you to figure out the type of movement that works to relieve your pain rather than cause more.

However, when you do find the perfect stretch for lower back pain, take a moment to enjoy the sensation. Know that, over time, it will become easier and that you are working toward relieving chronic pain. Breathe through the tightness and feel your body begin to open, relax, and heal.

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