Sitting all day is an easy way to develop lower back pain—thankfully there are effective lower back stretches for pain relief.
The effect of lower back pain is magnified if you are bent over during much of this sitting, as you would be if you were using a computer for most of the day. The spine, ligaments, and muscles along your back and hips are all remarkably strong and can handle quite a lot of strain, but being able to bear strain is not the same as being able to do so painlessly. As you stretch ligaments and tighten muscles, pain in the lower back is almost inevitable.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to go about treating this issue. Whether you use stretches, yoga, or other lower back exercises as a way to get pain relief, there are numerous techniques available to help reduce or eliminate your pain.
Effective Lower Back Stretches and Yoga Poses
- Knee-to-chest: This is a stretching exercise that works to align the pelvis while stretching the lower back and gluteal muscles. It is performed by lying flat on your back with toes pointed at the ceiling. Slowly bend your right knee and pull your leg up to your chest. Wrap your arms around your thigh, knee, or shin (wherever you get a good hold) and gently pull your knee in towards your chest. Hold the position for 20 seconds and slowly return the leg to the starting position. Perform this three times for each leg.
- Cobra stretch: This stretch draws on a bit of yoga to loosen tight abdominal muscles along the lower back to help with pain relief. Lie on your stomach with legs extended and palms planted on either side of your chest and your forearms and elbows flat on the ground. Keep your weight rested on your forearms as you slowly push your body upwards while also keeping your hips on the ground. Once you reach a comfortable arc, stretch your back and hold for 10 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Repeat the exercise five times. If you have the necessary lower back flexibility, you can add to the stretch by straightening your arms as well.
- Restful pose: Also known as the “restful child”, this is another yoga technique for the lower back. Start on your hands and knees on the floor with your knees set to the side of your hips. Turn your toes inward so that they touch each other and push your hips backwards while bending at the knee. This will result in a sort of “sitting” position, at which point you extend your arms fully forwards and let your head rest between them. Hold for 20 seconds then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat three times. In addition to lower back pain, some people might have shoulder pain as well. To compensate, adjust this pose by extending your arms backwards towards the feet instead of forwards.
- The two-knee twist: This lower back and hip exercise begins by lying on your back with your arms stretched out in a T-shape. Bend your knees into your chest as you inhale. While exhaling, lower your knees to the ground on the right side of your body while also keeping both shoulders pressed to the ground. You may need to adjust how far from your arm the knees rest in order to avoid one of the shoulders lifting. Hold this position for one to two minutes on each side of your body.
- The sphinx: This stretch is meant to improve blood flow to the lower back and otherwise help in the healing process and pain relief. Begin by lying on your stomach and then prop yourself up on your forearms. Make sure that your elbows are aligned underneath the shoulders. Place your hands palms-down on the ground while keeping the underside of your feet facing upwards. Press down firmly through your hands and feet while pressing the pubic bone forwards. There will be a bit of a sensation in your lower back, but take steady breaths to get through it. Hold for one to three minutes.
- Legs up the wall: This somewhat self-explanatory pose is also an exercise used to relax the muscles of the lower back and can be useful both as a pain relief tool and to cool down after one of the other stretches described here. Lie down on your back with your feet facing a wall. Scoot closer to the wall and raise your legs as needed until your buttocks is pressed against the wall. Keep your legs straight and your feet should be forming a right angle with the wall. Hold and relax for five to 10 minutes.
Related Article: Lower Back Pain on the Left Side
General Guidelines for Lower Back Stretches and Exercises
Depending on the specific cause of your lower back pain, it can take weeks—possibly months—before you experience sustained pain relief. There is also a fine line between stretches to improve your lower back and stretches that end up doing more harm than good. This is why, as you engage in lower back pain stretches, or yoga, to keep the following in mind:
- Wear comfortable, ideally loose clothes during the lower back exercises. You want an outfit that won’t bind or tighten to you as you bend.
- Take care to move slowly and gradually through the stages of the stretches to avoid tearing the muscle. For a similar reason, resist the urge to “bounce” during the exercises.
- Use a large, clean, flat surface that gives you plenty of space to move freely.
- Although yoga stretches and lower back exercises may sometimes feel strenuous, they should not be causing actual pain. If at any point you feel a sharp pain during an exercise, stop and rest before trying again (or abort entirely, if it keeps happening). The objective is to relieve your lower back pain, not exacerbate it.
Properly incorporating these lower back stretches into your routine can help strengthen your body against the habitual stresses of the modern day. Enjoy!
Sources for Today’s Article:
Rader, J., “Heal Your Lower Back Pain With These 5 Yoga Poses,” Breaking Muscle web site; http://breakingmuscle.com/yoga/heal-your-lower-back-pain-with-these-5-yoga-poses?page=0,0, last accessed March 7, 2016.
Rader, J., “Heal Your Lower Back Pain With These 5 Yoga Poses – Page 2,” Breaking Muscle; http://breakingmuscle.com/yoga/heal-your-lower-back-pain-with-these-5-yoga-poses?page=0,1, last accessed March 7, 2016.
Ullrich, P., “Stretching for Back Pain Relief,” Spine-health web site; http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/stretching-back-pain-relief, last accessed March 7, 2016.