Sometimes, you know exactly why your back hurts. Maybe you lifted something awkwardly and experienced a sharp pain, or perhaps it’s all that time you spend sitting at your desk. It’s also possible that your doctor and others have been warning you for years that your posture would result in severe back pain. Other times, however, back pain arrives mysteriously and all you want is for it to disappear.
The lumbar spine, located in the lower back, plays an integral role in supporting the weight of your upper body. It is responsible for bending, twisting, and coordinating muscles in the hips, pelvis, legs, and feet. Because of the heavy use, the muscles, bones, disks, nerves, and ligaments in the lumbar spine are very prone to wear and tear or injury over time. That constant wear and tear is why lower back pain is so prevalent. Fortunately, there are various movements and stretches that can provide relief from lower back pain. In addition to the following stretches, make sure to include other movements in your day to reduce or prevent pain.
This classic rest position in yoga gently stretches your lower back muscles, which are likely tight if you experience pain. To begin, get on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, placing your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Widen your knees toward the outsides of your mat and sit back onto your heels, keeping your palms flat on the floor. Drop your forehead and chest to the floor, attempting to reach all the way through your fingertips. Remain in this position for 20-40 seconds, or even longer if it feels nice.
Knee To Chest Stretch
This stretch aims to lengthen and stretch muscles in the low back that may be contracted. If the above Child’s Pose is too much on the hands and hips, this is a great alternative. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly bring your knees toward your chest, grabbing the outsides of your shins to pull your knees closer. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and try to keep your spine on the floor, especially your lumbar spine. You can also rock side to side slowly to massage the low back.
Supine Figure Four Stretch
Working to stretch your outer glutes, in addition to your piriformis, this classic yoga pose helps to relieve tension in the low back. Lie flat on your back and bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Lift your right leg, flex your foot, and place your right ankle on your left thigh. If this is enough, you can remain in this position. For a deeper stretch, grab behind your left thigh to draw it towards you until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds before switching to the other side.
In addition to stretching the lower back, this stretch helps to lengthen the glutes, which tighten up if you have back pain. Begin by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms extended out to the sides. Extend your right leg so that it is flat on the ground and then gently roll toward your right side, but keep your shoulders on the ground as you do so. Direct your gaze to your left and hold the position for 20-30 seconds before repeating on the other side.
Reclining Hand-To-Big Toe Stretch
Hamstrings and adductors can tighten as a result of lower back pain. This pose aims to stretch the calves and hamstrings to help improve mobility and relieve tension. Lie flat on your back with both of your legs extended. Lift your right leg up towards your face, making sure to keep your lower back on the ground. Interlace your hands behind your right thigh or calf, depending on how tight your hamstrings are. Keep your head and shoulders on the ground to keep form. If you are flexible enough, reach to grab the inside of your right foot for maximum stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and then switch sides.
This is a dynamic movement that allows the lower back muscles to move in different directions. It also works to improve balance and enhance core strength. Begin in a tabletop position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders and your knees directly beneath your hips. Keep your spine parallel to the ground and then round your back on an inhale to come into the “cat” position. Hold for a few seconds and then arch your back as you exhale to come into the “cow” position. Continue alternating between these movements for 30 seconds.
Softening your sacrum area can help release some tension in the low back. This stretch helps to lengthen through the sit bones to encourage gluteus maximus activation. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Make sure that your feet are hip-distance apart and that your heels are close to your glutes. Keep your arms flat on the ground, almost touching your fingertips to your heels. Engage your glutes and press through your feet to lift your hips up to come into a bridge. Roll your shoulders back to drop them away from your ears. Lengthen your sit bones and relax your sacrum as you hold this pose for 20-30 seconds.