Back Pain Stretches And Exercises
Want to give your sore back some relief ? Work these stretches into your daily routine.
One antidote to back pain costs nothing, requires no equipment or membership and can be done right where you are even from the chair where youre sitting: exercising and stretching the back. When you exercise and stretch, you improve spine mobility and stability, which helps protect you from injury. One caution, though, says Carina Abrams, a physical therapist with Sutter Physical and Hand Therapy, Davis: Its vital to maintain proper body mechanics and posture throughout your activities.
Some exercises that help one spine heal may aggravate another, she says. If you feel pain during or following exercise or any other activity, seek help from a physical therapist or another member of your medical team to help you address the issue and select the most appropriate exercises for you.
Here are Carinas top picks for exercises to stretch, strengthen and protect your back and spine.
Buy An Ergonomic Chair And/or Standing Desk
In most cases, sitting down for an extended period is unavoidable. In these situations, choosing an ergonomically friend chair preferably one with lumbar support can help diminish the risks of developing back pain. Its also crucial to buy a desk that can work with your setup, and relieve some of the pressure you normally experience when sitting down.
Keep in mind that simply buying an ergonomic chair isnt enough: you need to make the necessary adjustments to fit your entire setup. You can consult an online guide about how to set up an ergonomic chair though consulting your doctor is still the best option.
Exercises To Strengthen And Relieve Pain
Core and back strength is incredibly important when it comes to low back pain. The following exercises are designed to help you strengthen these areas and ease the pain in your back. Well begin with the easy ones and move on to the more difficult ones.
Note: Most of these exercises require that you engage your ab muscles. The proper form calls for a drawing-in of the muscles, instead of a bulging-out. Your lower stomach should flatten in a little bit. If youre pushing your abs out, youre likely over-flexing.
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Stretch 1 Knee To Chest
Lie on the ground with toes pointed to the ceiling, bend the right knee slowly and pull your leg toward your chest gently. Stay in this position for at least 20 seconds, then slowly release and straighten the leg to return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times for both legs.
Knee to chest is an effective way to address lower back pain not only because it stretches the lower back and gluteal muscles, but also because it can help to increase overall flexibility and improve range of motion in the joints. Be cautious with this stretch if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Mobility And Flexibility Exercises
These exercises improve range of motion in your hips and spine. That can alleviate tightness that could be contributing to back pain, Carina says.
Do stretching exercises as often as needed to help control pain, at least two to three times daily. Remember, exercise should be comfortable. If any symptoms occur, see a medical professional.
Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat, rotate the knees from side to side in a small comfortable arc of motion. Begin with only small movements, making the arc progressively larger as is comfortable. You should feel a comfortable stretch in the lower back and waist area. This can also be done with the feet and knees about shoulder width apart, which moves the stretch lower into the hips. Repeat 10 to 20 times on both sides.
Knee to Chest
Lying on your back, pull one knee into your chest using both hands behind the knee. You should feel a comfortable stretch in the lower back and hip. If you feel pain in the front of the hip, discontinue exercise. You can keep the bottom leg flat or bend it with your foot flat on the floor, whichever feels more comfortable. The exercise also can be done with both knees hugged toward the chest, but move one leg into position at a time. Hold 10 to 30 seconds, and repeat two to three times.
Outer Hip Stretch
Hip Flexor Stretch
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What Causes Low Back Pain
Low back pain typically stems from the tightening of surrounding muscles and muscle groups, such as hips, glutes and hamstrings. Rarely is it something that is directly attributed to the lower back, unless its from the result of a previous injury or accident.
Tightness in muscles, such as: hip flexors, glutes, quads and hamstrings, as well as poor core strength and flexibility are the most common causes of low back pain.
In most people, these muscle groups become tight by sitting for long periods of time, standing on hard surfaces for long periods of time, poor posture that never gets corrected, lack of consistent exercise that helps loosen muscles or too much heavy lifting exercises without a proper stretching routine.
Tips For Managing Back Pain
Some simple steps can help relieve pain and reduce or prevent reoccurrence:
- Stay mobile. Movement can help relieve stiffness. Try to keep active and do some gentle stretching and exercise throughout the day.
- Medication. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help temporarily relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Complementary therapies. Some people find that massage, acupuncture, or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulations helps with longer-term back pain.
- Posture. Practice good posture while sitting. Try not to slouch, take regular breaks, and ensure that chairs and workstations are suitable and set up correctly. Some people find that standing desks help.
- Yoga and Pilates. Many people find that activities such as yoga and Pilates can help improve posture and relieve back pain.
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Need More Help From Goodpath
Regular stretching combined with the right exercise techniques and lifestyle choices can be very helpful to your back pain.
Be sure to take Goodpaths quiz to create a custom back pain program. After you answer a few short questions, we can build you an integrative treatment plan that is specifically designed for you.
We analyze your medical history, lifestyle choices, age, and other factors before building a personalized kit delivered right to your doorstep.
Strength And Stability Exercises
Just like flexibility and mobility, strength and stability of the spine and lower body contributes to back health. Still, Carina suggests patients master the first set of exercises before they turn to these.
Attempt these exercises once the mobility stretches are comfortable, not restricted and pain-free. And remember that core stability comes not just from abdominal or back strength, but also hip strength and proper control and coordination of these areas, Carina says.
Pelvic Tilting Lying Down
This exercise helps gain control of the pelvic and trunk muscles that can support your spine. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat. First, flatten the space between your lower back and the ground, tucking your tailbone toward your knees. Then, rotate the pelvis the other way, increasing the gap between your lower back and the ground, tailbone rotating toward the floor. Some people feel comfortable inhaling with the upward movement of the lower back, and exhaling while flattening. Remember to not hold your breath during this or other exercises. Repeat 10 to 20 times.
Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat, press your heels to the ground, lift toes and squeeze the buttocks to lift your hips upward. Lift as high as is comfortable, making sure to keep hips level, and lower slowly. Repeat 10 to 15 times, or until you feel fatigue in the lower back, hips and thighs. Rest, then do a second set.
Sit to Stand
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Straight Leg Calf Stretch
The calf stretch is another good exercise that will strengthen the muscles that support your foot. To do this exercise, place both hands against a wall at chest height, place the injured foot about a step behind the other foot, making sure that both feet are flat against the floor. Then simply leans towards the wall, hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then release and repeat.
How Does Stretching Work
To understand how stretching works, you have to know a little bit more about the muscles itself first. The muscle is made of strands of tissue called fascicles, similar to the strands of muscle you see when you cut into poultry or red meat . Every fascicle is made of fasciculi or bundles of muscle fibers. Muscle fibers are made of tens of thousands of myofibrils that are similar to thread. These myofibrils contract, relax, and elongate. We could keep going into detail, getting smaller and smaller to the cell, but I think thats all you need to know to know how stretching works. Nerves and muscles are connected, so when the brain tells your muscle to do something, in your muscle fibers the signal stimulates the flow of calcium, which causes one of the smallest parts of your muscle to rub against each other and shorten to contract the muscle fiber.
When you stretch, the most basic unit of the muscle fiber contracts, allowing your muscle fiber to elongate. When the muscle fiber is at its limit, that means all the smallest units of muscle are fully stretched. Too much stretching will put force on your connective tissue. However, even when this happens, there are some muscle fibers at rest. The more often you stretch, the more muscle fibers will be elongated.
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Supine Figure 4 Stretch
This classic yoga pose helps open up the hips as much as it is good for massaging your low back. “This pose stretches the outer glutes, as well as your piriformis, both of which can contribute to a tight lower back,” says Hilary Wright, Y7 instructor and director of continuing education.
How to do a supine figure 4 stretch: Lie on your back on a yoga mat with both knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Lift your right leg, flex your right foot and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. If this is enough stay here, or draw your left knee in and hold behind your left thigh to increase the intensity. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths and then switch to the other side.
Pain Relief: Try Partial Crunches
One of the classic core-strengthening workouts is the partial stomach crunch. Partial crunches build strength in both your lower back and related stomach muscles, making this an ideal exercise for people with spondylosis.
Here’s how to get the most out of partial crunches:
- Lie back, and keep your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent.
- With your hands behind your head or with arms crossed around your chest, raise your shoulders from the floor. Make sure to keep your stomach muscles tight.
- Breath out while raising your shoulders. Avoid leading with your elbows .
- Hold for one second. Next, lower yourself back down to the floor in a controlled manner.
- Repeat with between eight and 12 repetitions.Remember to follow proper form, which prevents excessive spine stress. Keep your feet, tailbone, and lower back against the floor throughout the exercise.
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Stretch #5 Hip Flexor Stretch
Building off of the concept of posterior chain it is important to consider the anterior chain as well.
Deficits in strength and flexibility can lead to several issues and lower back pain is most commonly coupled with weak and tight hip flexors. The hip flexors are the iliacus and psoas muscles. They are primarily responsible for lifting the femur into flexion .
When the pelvis is tilted forward through sitting, poor exercise technique, etc. there is a higher likelihood that the hip flexors will be in a shortened position as they attach to the lower spine and inside of the pelvis.
Over time this can cause weakness and tightness and encourage lower back pain. Fixing this issue at home takes time, but can be done through a hip flexor stretch.
Kneeling on the ground with the front foot put far out in front of you lunge forward while keeping your trunk over your hips and head up. The stretch will occur in the front of the thigh and hip toward the medial part of the leg that you are kneeling on. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds breathing in and out then switch to the other leg.
And Before Your Head Hits The Pillow At Night
Stretching right when you wake up is great and so is stretching right before you go to sleep. Getting in a good stretch before your head hits the pillow will help alleviate any tension from the day, which will help relax your body and make it easier to drift off to sleep.
Bookend your day with stretching morning and evening to maximize the benefit.
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General Tips For Stretching To Relieve Back Pain
Keeping the following in mind can help effectively stretch the muscles without injury:
- Wear comfortable clothing that wont bind or constrict movements
- Do not force the body into difficult or painful positionsstretching should be pain free
- Move into a stretch slowly and avoid bouncing, which can cause muscle strain
- Stretch on a clean, flat surface that is large enough to move freely
- Hold stretches long enough to adequately lengthen muscles and improve range of motion1
- Repeat a stretch between 2 and 5 timesa muscle usually reaches maximum elongation after about 4 repetitions1
- Stretch one side of the body at a time
Below are examples of stretches targeted for the neck, upper back, and the lower back.
Stretches To Help Your Back Feel Better
The hamstrings attach directly to your pelvis and can lead to stiffness and pain in the lower back if they are particularly tight. There are multiple ways to stretch the hamstrings. Try lying on your back with both legs straight. Loop a yoga strap or towel around one foot and slowly draw that leg up towards the ceiling until a stretch is felt behind the thigh. Make sure you arent rounding your back and your other leg stays flat on the floor. Hold at least 30 seconds.
Lower Trunk Rotation
Promote some mobility in your lumbar spine with this nice, gentle exercise. Begin lying on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders connected with the floor and your knees glued together as you slowly and gently drift both knees from left to right. Allow knees to fall all the way to one side and hold for a moment so you feel a little twist and stretch happening in your lower back. Repeat about 10 times to each side.
Knee to Chest Stretch
While lying on your back with both knees straight, bend one knee and hug that knee towards your chest . Hold 30 seconds. Repeat on opposite side. Also, try hugging both knees to your chest at the same time so that you make a small ball. While doing this, allow your lower back to relax by taking several slow breaths.
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Specific Upper Back Stretches For Back Pain Relief
By: Leon Turetsky , Last Updated: September 23, 2021
If you experience back pain in your upper back and neck area it is most likely caused by poor posture.
But no worries, we identified the muscles that are tight on most of the population and listed specific upper back stretches below to help you release them, lessen your back pain and increase your mobility.
The following stretches will target theses muscles:Upper trapezius
This Simple Stretch Is Your Diy Way To Relieve Back Pain
Flossing your nerves? If it sounds like a stretch, well, it is. An exercise you can subtly do at your desk, where most of us are marooned these days, is an effective way to ease sciatica and other pains triggered by nerves that bunch up or get caught on muscle or scar tissue.
Basically, when a nerve gets entrapped, it can swell, says physiatrist Jason W. Siefferman, MD, director of pain medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. Nerve flossing, also known as gliding, uses slow, repeated movements to free up the nerve and stretch it, making it more resilient and easing discomfort.
Its kind of like stretching a muscle, Siefferman says. As part of a comprehensive plan, it can be a very helpful technique.
Daniel Fleck, a physical therapist at Manhattans High Performance PT office, says his patients benefit from the technique, whether theyre suffering from sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome or hamstring injuries.
For leg pain, he has patients sit down and, stretching out one leg at a time, slowly point their toes while bending their heads in the same downward direction. Then theyll switch, flexing their toes and, at the same time, bending their heads back. This should be repeated, slowly, 10 times, once a day.
Most physical therapists use , and if not, shame on them, Fleck says. Just as we stretch our muscles, we need to mobilize the nerves.
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Best Back Pain Stretches For Immediate Back Pain Relief
- Because back pain can be so debilitating, many people seek out serious interventions in order to alleviate their pain but it turns out, all you might need is a simple stretching routine
- Most back pain can be resolved by keeping your spine strong and flexible through regular stretching
- Incorporating a daily stretching routine to strengthen the spine, loosen muscles, and increase flexibility offers serious relief from back pain
You want to maximize your performance and feel your best but if youve got debilitating back pain, it can be hard to focus on anything else. The good news is, back pain relief is often just a few simple back stretches and exercises away.
There are a few back pain causes , but the end result is the same chronic pain that keeps you from living your best life.
Because back pain can be so debilitating, a lot of people turn to more serious interventions, like surgery or painkillers but turns out, all you really need is a good stretch. Most back pain can be resolved by doing regular exercises to keep muscles that support your spine strong and flexible, says Fei Jiang, PT, DPT, OCS, at Providence Saint Johns Health Centers Performance Therapy in Santa Monica, California. In fact, a recent study on back pain found that participants who followed a 12-week stretching regimen reported better back functioning, less pain, and a reduced need for pain medication.