My Technique: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain With 7 Easy Stretches
Back Pain Can Be Helped by Stretching
Many of us spend a great deal of time sitting down. We drive to work, we sit at a desk, we drive home again—and then spend the evening on the sofa watching TV. Strangely, this can cause lower back pain, which doesn't really go away. The continuous aching makes us even less likely to move around and stretch.
My husband, Derek, has worked in sport and fitness for more than 30 years as a personal trainer, coach and fitness instructor, and during that time he has learned the importance of stretching muscles to maintain flexibility. He has helped people move better and ease their muscular pain. While not medically trained, he has seen that slow, gentle stretching improves back pain as long as there is not an underlying medical reason for the pain. The stretches he showed me really helped with my nagging backache, and I wanted to share what worked for me.
1. Knee-To-Chest Stretches
You need an area with a bit of room and a mat or carpeting that will not slide around. Wear clothing that will let you move with ease.
Lie on your back and pull one knee into your chest. Bring your leg as close as you can comfortably, making sure your spine is in a straight line while you do the stretch. Leave the other leg straight but not locked. Hold the knee at the chest and count to 10. Now pull the knee in a little closer so you increase the stretch and count to 10. Slowly release the knee and lower the leg to the floor. Repeat with the other knee. Then pull both knees to your chest and hold in the same way.
You should keep your back and hips straight and square throughout and the stretch should be felt in the lower back. Move slowly.
2. Quadricep (Front of Thigh) Stretch
Stretching the quads helps ease lower back ache even though it seems like it's the wrong set of muscles.
Lie on your front, bend one knee and place your heel as near to your butt as you can, then gently pull it a little closer with your hand. The stretch should be felt down the front of your thigh. Hold for a count of 10, then pull your heel a little closer to deepen the stretch and count to 10 again. Slowly lower the leg and repeat on the other side. Keep your spine straight at the same time and move slowly.
If you cannot comfortably reach your foot behind you, use a towel to help.
Quadricep (Front of Thigh) Stretch
3. Back Bend or Cobra Stretch
Bending backwards, push your upper body up using your arms. Tilt your head back and look up. You should arch backwards from the hips, your pelvis and legs stay still on the floor. Use your arms, not your back muscles to get into this position. Once there, hold for 10 then push a little further and hold again. Move slowly and always in straight lines to prevent injury.
Back Bend or Cobra Stretch
4. Cat Stretch for Lower Back
The traditional stretch to help with an aching back is called the cat stretch, also called the cat and cow.
This is done on the floor on all fours and can give some instant relief. Make sure you have your weight evenly distributed on hands and knees before you start. Round your back with your head tucked under as far as it will go and hold for a count of 5, then arch your back with your head tilted skyward for a count of 5. Repeat this as many times as feels good! Again, don't move quickly and keep your body balanced at all times.
If being on the floor is difficult for you, you can do this sitting on a hard chair, like a dining room chair. Sit a little away from the backrest and have your feet square on the floor. Round and arch your back in the same way.
Cat Stretch for Lower Back
5. Hamstring (Back of Thigh) Stretch
Tight hamstring muscles often contribute to lower back pain. These muscles at the back of the thigh are often too tight but keeping them flexible contributes to overall good balance and wellbeing.
To stretch the hamstrings sit with your legs in front of you and pull yourself tall from the waist upwards. Now lean forward from the hips. The pull should be on the back of your legs. You might not be able to get very far forward, this is a sure sign your hamstrings are tight, but as long as you feel the stretch then it is fine. Try not to round your back, keep your back straight and bend from the hips. If you find it helps, use a towel to pull yourself further down.
Hamstring (Back of Thigh) Stretch
6. Seated Back Twist
Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front. Bend your right leg and place your right foot on the floor on the outside of your left knee. Place your left hand on the floor behind you and twist around. Move slowly. Open your chest. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly release. Put both legs out in front of you. Bend your left leg and place your left foot on the floor on the outside of your right knee. Place your right hand on the floor behind you and twist. Hold for 10 seconds.
The twist and stretch should be felt at your lower back muscles. If there is other pain, please stop.
Seated Back Twist
7. Finish With Resting Pose
End your stretching session with a yoga position often called Child's Pose. Kneel on the ground with your knees shoulder-width apart. Sit on your heels and round your back to lie forward with your arms outstretched in front of you. You can stay in this position for some time, slowly lowering nearer the ground as your muscles stretch.
This should feel resting and relaxing. There are many yoga poses that are good for overall flexibility and balance.
You Can Add These Stretches to Your Daily Routine
This series of stretches can be done every day, or even twice a day, to relieve lower back pain. Once you know what you are doing, it will only take 10 minutes. You don't need a lot of space, you don't need any equipment and it is free. When you ache, you might not want to move and stretch, but it is often exactly what you need to do.
If your lifestyle is mostly sedentary, try to incorporate some walking here and there to help keep muscles moving. Such as parking your car in the furthest spot from the building so you walk a little each time to go shopping or reach the office. Or how a bit of dancing while you wait for the coffee to brew, or walking around the block in your lunch break?
It took me about 6 weeks to get rid of my backache using these stretches with the pain easing a bit more every day over that time. I now stretch every few days, or when I have been sitting for long periods of time—after a long journey in the car or a day in a training session for example. I have also incorporated some yoga twice a week by following one of the many free videos on YouTube. I am not very good at it, but it makes me feel good!