5 Simple Low Back Stretches

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their doctor.  It is also a common reason to miss work.  More than 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime.  A large majority will recover well in a few weeks.  Only about 10% will experience ongoing or persistent back pain.  Whether you experience ongoing or intermittent back pain, doing the right back stretches will help.

Frustrated with Your Back Pain

The truth is, your back pain most likely comes in waves.  You may experience low back pain for a few weeks, and then you fully recover.  This cycle repeats over time. However, with each new episode the severity of your back pain usually worsens. The duration of each episode becomes longer as well.  It becomes harder and harder to recover.  You become frustrated.  Some people seek the elusive magic treatment to make all their back pain go away forever.  Not finding it only adds to your frustration.

Your back pain does not have to be debilitating.  And instead of your back pain controlling you, you can control your back pain.  Exercise is a proven way to decrease your chances of having low back pain.  It is also a proven way to treat your already painful back.  There are many different forms of exercise that are helpful.  These include strengthening exercise, stretching, yoga, Pilates, and aerobics. This article focuses on simple low back stretches you can do to prevent and treat your back pain.

Feel Better with Low Back Stretches

knee to chest

Exercise has a powerful protective effect on low back pain.  Exercise performed consistently over time will reduce your chances of experiencing back pain.  It will not totally eliminate your risk.  However, when you do experience an episode of back pain, you will recover easier and quicker.  Large studies show strengthening exercises are the best for reducing your chances of back pain.  However, stretching exercises are also proven to be helpful.  The best approach is to include both strengthening and stretching exercises in a regular program.

Low Back Stretches: The Right Stretches for You

Low back stretches should be simple and easy to perform anywhere.  We recommend daily stretching exercises each morning.  Stretching takes no more than 10-15 minutes.  This is a great way to start your day.  You will feel more flexible, awake, clear-minded, and energetic.  The 5 stretches that follow are only a few examples.  There are many more stretches you can do.  The key is to find the vital few that work best for you.  Some trial and error is needed.  If you need some help, contact your physical therapist.

Pelvic Tilt

The pelvic tilt is one of the most basic range of motion exercises you can do.  It helps improve mobility of each individual joint in your lumbar spine and pelvis. You start on your back with your knees bent.  Place your hands on your pelvis.  Gently tilt your pelvis towards your head.  At the same time flatten your low back into the floor or bed.  You will feel your abdominal muscles gently tighten.  This is a good thing.  Next, tilt your pelvis in the opposite direction.  Now your back will arch away from the floor or bed.  Start with small and slow movements.  If you experience pain in either direction, minimize how far you move at first.  Perform 10 to 20 slow repetitions each day.

Double Knees to Chest

Knee to chest exercises lead to flexion of your spine.  This opens up your joints and vertebrae.  Many people with spinal stenosis benefit from flexion exercises.   You start on your back with your knees bent.  Raise your feet off the floor and hug your knees to your chest.  Hold this position for 5 seconds.  Perform 10 to 20 repetitions each day.  Avoid holding your breath.  Do not continue this exercise if you experience pain running down your leg.  If this is the case, try the press up exercise below or contact your physical therapist for more guidance.

Lower Trunk Rotations

Most people really like this stretch.  It is relaxing and easy to perform.  You start on your back with your knees bent.  Keep your feet and knees together.  Gently rock your legs from one side to the other.  Your hips can come up but keep your shoulders flat on the floor.  Hold each stretch for 3 to 5 seconds.  Perform 10 to 20 repetitions to each side.   To increase the stretch, hold your feet up off the floor.  This also causes the stretch to move up a little higher into your thoracic spine.  It is also more challenging.

Press Ups

Press ups help many people with sciatica or pain from disc problems.  Start lying on your stomach with your hands in a push-up position.  Relax your hips and legs.  Push your upper body up from the floor.  Keep your low back relaxed.  Your arms should be doing all the work.  Hold this position for 2 to 3 seconds.  Exhale fully, and then return to the starting position.  Perform 10 stretches each day. Do not continue this exercise if you experience pain running down your leg.  If this is the case, try the knee to chest exercise above or contact your physical therapist for more guidance.

Child’s Pose

There are many different modifications and variations to this exercise.  Start on your hands and knees.  Sit back onto your heels with your hands out in front.  Relax your back and exhale.  Hold the stretch for at least 5 seconds. You can emphasize stretching one side of your  back by moving your hands to the opposite side.  Do whatever feels best.  Perform 10 stretches each day.

Begin Your Low Back Stretches Today

Feel good

Low back stretches are best if they become part of your daily routine.  The 5 stretches included here can be modified to meet your needs.  There are also many other stretches that have helped many thousands of people with back pain.  The keys are to find what works for you and be consistent with performing them.  Don’t wait for your back pain to get out of control.  Start stretching while you are feeling good.  Don’t you want to feel great, all the time?  If you need help getting started, contact your physical therapist.  We want to help you move without pain.

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