Simple Stretches To Relieve Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can be a debilitating and painful condition.
Fortunately, staying physically active may be the most effective and cost-efficient way to soothe or prevent it.
Here are 8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain.
Although its origin varies, changes in the lumbar, or lower back, structure due to musculoskeletal damage are considered to be the main cause .
Your musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that provide form, support, stability, and movement to your body.
Other muscles that play an important role in maintaining the normal curvature of your spinal column are reported to be associated with lower back pain. These include the hip flexor and hamstring muscles .
Minor lower back pain normally gets better on its own within a few days or weeks. It can be considered chronic when it persists for more than three months .
In either case, staying physically active and regularly stretching can help reduce lower back pain or prevent it from returning .
The remainder of this article provides eight stretches for lower back pain, all of which you can do in the comfort of your own home with minimal or no equipment.
Summary Lower back pain is an incredibly common condition that can be relieved or prevented with regular exercise and stretching.
The knee-to-chest stretch can help lengthen your lower back, relieving tension and pain.
To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:
What Are The Symptoms Of Tight Muscles In The Upper Back And Neck
The main symptom of tightness in the muscles of the upper back and neck is aching discomfort in the upper back and neck area with diminished range of motion of the neck along with tenderness around the neck and shoulder blades. The affected individual may get relief with gentle stretching of the muscles and application of heat to the affected regions.
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Stop Your Activity And Find Immediate Rest
This may already make sense, but many of us prefer to keep moving. Some professionals actually recommend that you stay in motion, but if you are the unfortunate one to have a disc or nerve problem, then that is poor advice. You may end up visiting them for that instead.
Dont try to actively work or move until you know the source of the injury.
A very common reaction is to keep moving but MAY be dangerous. Although this might feel helpful, it is important to determine whether your pain is more than just muscular in nature.
Why you should NOT move:
Moving when you have any of these injuries can cause further injury, intensifying the pain.
If you have a history of ANY of these injuries or suspect that your lifestyle may contribute to it , then rest is a better than simply muscling through it with medication.
Lastly with this first tip, you should know that you should also apply this caution to not just your back but also to your hips, knees and neck.
Forcing yourself to move when these areas are injured can be very risky. Make sure that you arent adding to the pain. The wrong movement can set you behind.
How To Relieve Lower Back Tightness
This article was co-authored by Jason Myerson, DPT, DMT, OCS, FAAOMPT. Jason Myerson is a Physical Therapist and a Certified Orthopedic Specialist. He is affiliated with Performance Physical Therapy & Wellness with clinics located in Connecticut. He serves as adjunct faculty in the Physical Therapy Department at Quinnipiac University. Jason specializes in helping active people get back to hobbies, activities, and sports they love while utilizing an integrated approach to wellness. He holds an MA in Physical Therapy from Quinnipiac University and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Arcadia University. He is Residency and Fellowship trained in Orthopedic Manual Therapy, achieved a Doctorate in Manual Therapy and became a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists .There are 12 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 184,753 times.
Lower back tightness is a common complaint among many people. Improving your overall physical and mental health can help relieve lower back tightness immensely. With the proper care, relief for your tight lower back is within reach.
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Physiology Of Tight Muscles
When we talk about muscle tightness, we are usually referring to a tender, irritated, or painful sensation that we feel internally by the muscles. The physiology of your muscle tightness may depend on why you are experiencing tightness in the first place.
Imagine a muscle like a rubber band. What happens when a rubber band is stretched? It feels tight. The same thing happens to your muscles too. For example, your hamstrings are long muscles at the back of your thigh attached to your pelvis and also below the knee joint. When your hamstrings are weak they can become tight. Weak hamstrings arent strong enough to keep your pelvis in place. This may result in anterior pelvic tilt and a lengthened hamstring position, or a posterior pelvic tilt and a shortened position. Both weak and lengthened, and weak and shortened muscles can lead to painful and tight muscles.
Now imagine sitting at your desk with your hips in a bent and flexed position. Your hip flexors are shortened while your glutes are being lengthened. As you are slouching to work on your computer, your back muscles become lengthened, while your chest muscles are shortened. As you are staring at the screen, you squeeze your neck and force some muscles to lengthen and others to shorten. As a result of sitting like this for a long period of time, your muscles become weaker and tighter.
Is Your Stiff Back Actually Stiff
In a study at the University of Albertas Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, participants were asked how stiff their backs felt to them. After that, the faculty measured the biomechanical status of the participants backs.
There was no relation between biomechanical stiffness and the reported feeling of stiffness, said Greg Kawchuk, professor and back and spine expert in the Department of Physical Therapy. What people describe as stiffness is something different than the measurement of stiffness.
Tasha Stanton, lead author and senior research fellow of pain neuroscience at the University of South Australia, said that the feeling of stiffness may be a protective construct that is created by our nervous system.
Its our bodys way of protecting ourselves, possibly from strain, further injury or more pain, she said.
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Exercises To Ease Muscle Stiffness In Your Quadriceps
If the stiffness and tightness is in the quadriceps, there are quite a few exercises you can do to relax this particular muscle.
The first is a standing quad stretch. This involves standing on one leg and lifting the foot of the other leg behind you. Grab your ankle and slowly push the heel of your foot toward your butt. Hold this position to elongate the quadriceps. If balance is an issue, use a chair or the wall to help steady yourself.
A lying quad stretch works too. The basic movement is the same as the standing quad stretch. The only difference is, instead of being on your feet, youre lying on your side. If you prefer this position, the leg closest to the ground is straight and the quad you are stretching is on top.
A kneeling quad stretch is like a lunge except youre on one knee. To do it, kneel on the knee of the leg with the tight quadricep. The other knee should be in front of you, bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your upper body upright, lean forward until you feel stretching in your quad. Hold this position to help elongate the muscle.
Stretch #: Inner Thigh Stretch
Stretching the groin and inner thighs, muscles which are connected to the pelvis, can help tremendously with hip mobility and reducing back pain. This stretch releases the adductors , which are often called upon when glutes, core and/or hip muscles are weak. This can leave them tight and shortened, which prevents hip movement, explains Kalika.
How to: Sitting down on the floor, open your legs wide apart. Flex your feet and engage your quads. If you cannot sit upright in this position, sit on a pillow or on a yoga block. For a deeper stretch, lean forward.
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Dehydration And Tight Muscles
The human body is made up of 70 percent of water, hence having eight to ten glasses of water per day is rather important for your health and proper body functions. When your body doesnt have sufficient water to function properly, it experiences dehydration.
When your muscles dont get enough water, tension occurs which may result in tight muscles and cramping. Tight muscles and cramps are often early signs of dehydration. While these signs of mild dehydration may be uncomfortable, they must be taken seriously before severe dehydration sets in. Severe dehydration can lead to serious health problems, such as seizures, blood clots, and even death .
Outer Hip Muscle Stretches For Low Back Pain Relief
Muscles located at the side of the hip, which include the gluteus medius, piriformis, and hip external rotator muscles contribute to posture and the well-being of your lower back. When these muscles get tight, as they often do, you may develop hip pain and lower back pain.
Tight outer hip muscles, also known as the hip abductors, can pull on the pelvis and slightly alter its position this, in turn, may influence the muscles that support the alignment of your spine.
The key is not to allow yourself to develop spinal misalignment. The best way to deal with low back pain that is caused or complicated by tight outer hip muscles is to stretch the muscles.
There are a number of ways to release and stretch these key posture muscles, and the most important thing is that you use them regularly.
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What Is The Fastest Way To Relieve Back Pain
The steps to relieving back pain vary by the people you ask. Stress pain can be relieved with hydration, exercise, and breathing routines in most cases. However, relieving other types of back pain may require these steps to reduce the soreness:
Back pain can be your body telling you that it needs something . Or the opposite could be true. Evaluate when the pain began to figure out why your pain is persistent, then implement the appropriate technique to reduce the pain.
Regular Stretching & Yoga
Stretching is a way to deliberately flex or stretch certain muscles or tendons in order to improve muscle elasticity, flexibility, a range of motion, and muscle control. Stretching is frequently recommended by physical therapists and bodyworkers for its therapeutic benefits.
While stretching can be an instinctive action when you feel tight muscles or cramps, you can be intentional about it. Developing a regular stretching routine can help you eliminate tight muscles, tension, and pain. Stretch for five to ten minutes upon waking and before going to bed. If you are working on the computer or sitting for a long period of time, make sure to take breaks to stretch.
Yoga is another wonderful way to stretch your body, improve flexibility, and increase strength in your body. Yoga also offers mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, calming your mind, lowering anxiety, all of which can lead to less muscle tension.
If you are not a seasoned yogi, dont worry. There are plenty of beginners classes, as well as easy videos online. If you dont have time for a full class, you can always choose a short yoga video or do a few specific yoga moves as your body needs it. Some great yoga poses to relieve tight muscles and pain include the downward dog, wide-leg forward fold, low lunge, bow pose, cobra, eagle, and camel poses.
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You Have Always Had Reflexive Chronic Muscle Tightness
Were talking about a muscle that likely has never, ever in its existence been able to properly relax.
I can recall as a five-year-old child not liking stretching. A swim coach getting frustrated with me because of how inflexible I was trying to force me to touch my toes. The result was crying. The point is that I had this problem for as long as I can remember. As I grew up, it got worse. Calling it muscles stiffness in my legs was a huge understatement. Eventually, I had to deal with low back pain and tightness that I couldnt ever fully get rid of.
My patients have also described having had their muscle tension most of their lives. The importance of this is that many people have never known any difference. They have never experienced the feeling of a relaxed muscle so they may not know there is a problem.
How Is Lumbar Strain Diagnosed
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, diagnostic procedures for low back pain may include the following. However, during many initial assessments and exams, specialized tests aren’t usually recommended.
- X-ray. A diagnostic test that produces images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- Computed tomography scan . This is an imaging test that uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. A CT scan shows detailed images of bones, muscles, fat, and organs.
- Magnetic resonance imaging . A diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
- Radionuclide bone scan. A nuclear imaging technique that uses a very small amount of radioactive material, which is injected into the bloodstream to be detected by a scanner. This test shows blood flow to the bone and cell activity within the bone.
- Electromyogram . A test to evaluate nerve and muscle function.
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What Is Lower Back Pain
Low back pain can result from many different injuries, conditions or diseases most often, an injury to muscles or tendons in the back.
Pain can range from mild to severe. In some cases, pain can make it difficult or impossible to walk, sleep, work or do everyday activities.
Usually, lower back pain gets better with rest, pain relievers and physical therapy . Cortisone injections and hands-on treatments can relieve pain and help the healing process. Some back injuries and conditions require surgical repair.
Specific Hamstring Stretches For Back Pain Relief
The following stretches can gradually lengthen and reduce tension in the hamstring muscle, and in turn reduce stress felt in the lower back.
Options for hamstring stretching exercises, listed from most difficult to least difficult, include:
- Standing Hamstring Stretch. While standing, bend forward at the waist with arms hanging down toward the ground and with legs straight, without locking the knees. Try to touch the toes but do not strain to do so. Stop bending forward when a slight pulling sensation is felt in the hamstring. This form of exercise is not always recommended as it may be difficult to do, and even exacerbate pain from a lumbar herniated disc, spondylolisthesis or other specific conditions.
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Muscle Tightness In Thighs And Hips
Weve talked before about how hamstring stretches can help alleviate back pain. Tight hamstrings are short hamstrings, and these muscles connect to your lower back. Tightness in your hamstrings can affect the curvature of your lower spine, disrupting the precise alignment of your spine with your pelvis.
Hamstrings may be tight as a result of physical activity, injury, or a failure to stretch before and after exercising. Luckily this problem can be easy to manage at home with some targeted stretching. If you need some help getting started, a physical therapist can help guide you through some basic movements.
What Signs Should I Look For That Can Indicate A Back Spasm
If youve ever felt that your muscles in your lower back are tight or contracting, had a dull ache in your back when you moved, or a sharp pain in a specific area of your back, you likely experienced a muscle spasm. Lower back spasms can range from being mildly bothersome to intensely painful.
While some people feel a muscle spasm in a concentrated area of their backs, others find that their discomfort radiates to other nearby areas, including their hips or legs.
Specific symptoms signaling you could be having a back spasm include:
- Tension and tightness in your lower back
- Intermittent cramping in your lower back
- Intense pain in the lower back that comes on suddenly
- Lower back muscle weakness
- Difficulty moving after picking up an object or bending over
- Tightness in the back after standing, sitting, or driving for extended periods.
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