Stretching for lower back pain is a very common practice. Most people do it straight in the morning, right after waking up and are often implementing a far too rigorous stretching routine.
This is not the best way to do it. Stretching can be a great tool in improving your lower back health. But what if I tell you that the way you’re stretching could actually cause more trouble instead of preventing it in the long-term?
The Golden Rules Of Stretching For Lower Back Pain
‘Primum non nocere.’ / EN: ‘First, do no harm.’ – Key principle in medicine.
If you have lower back pain, stretching is generally a good idea. But remember to keep certain principles in mind. You don’t want to harm yourself. You want to effectively ease your pain.
- Always stretch warmed up. Remember, you’re damaging your muscles when you’re stretching. Make sure your muscles are warmed up so they’re able to deal with stress better. To warm up, simply go walking in fast pace for 10 minutes before you start to stretch.
- Stretching in the morning is a complete No-Go. Your discs of your spine get soaked up over night. They’re increasing in volume. That’s why you’re few centimeters taller in the morning. Being tall might be great, but due to this circumstance there’s also more pressure on your vertebraes during those first 1-2 hours. This is the time that your discs spend in that soaked up state. Don’t stretch during that time frame. Your spine could be damaged more easily.
- Don’t stretch every day if you’re a beginner and don’t stretch too hard. Remember that stretching puts stress on your muscles and joints. In the beginning your body needs time to adapt to the damage. Start with 2-3 times a week for the best results. Also don’t stretch when your muscles are sore.
- Don’t focus entirely on your lower back. Yes you might feel pain in the lower back region, but this doesn’t mean that the pain stems from there. Everything is connected in your body. You have to think of your body as a system. Lower back pain could stem from tension in your upper back or even your heels. Don’t just do lower back stretches, make sure your organism is healthy overall.
- Keep a straight back. I see people trying to stretch their hamstrings with a completely round back. Don’t do that. You’re hurting your spine more than you’re helping it. Keep a straight back – or better – choose a position where having a rounded back is impossible. Such as in the stretching exercises that are following.
The Stretching Exercises
The exercises following are divided into two different categories:
- Removing pressure from your spine
- Stretching the muscles in your body to remove damages during the day.
Impaired flexibility is seldom the root cause for lower back pain. Yes you might feel some pain relief doing it short term, but this is simply because of the increased blood flow to the damaged tissue. Most lower back pain stem from problems of your joints and bones, things that stretching only has a minimal effect over. Nonetheless stretching adequately and regularly can reduce the pressure on your spine in the short and long-term.
3 Ways To Remove Pressure From Your Spine
Hold these stretches for approximately 20 seconds until you feel less pressure on your spine. At best do them after sitting for a long work day. This can be truly energizing.
Elongating Your Spine – No Equipment Needed
With this stretching technique you’re elongating your spine and stretching your chest muscles. Try to make your spine as long as possible. Just make sure to not overextend it in the other direction. Have good posture during the entire stretching.
Elongating Your Spine – Ball Technique
This stretching method is also taking away pressure from your spine. This is a little bit more difficult than the previous exercise, as you have to deal with instability. Make sure your belly button is the highest point of your body in this movement. Training on this exercise ball is also a great way to train the stabilizing muscles of your back.
Elongating Your Spine – Inversion Table
This is the most advanced and in my eyes most effective version of taking away pressure. You’re basically turning yourself upside down on an inversion table and hold for a couple of seconds. This takes the effect of gravity away. Your discs can recharge. Inversion Tables start at about 100$.
3 Ways To Stretch Spine Healthy Muscles
Hold the tension in these muscles for about 1 -2 minutes. Aim for two sets in the beginning.
Chest Stretch – Bat As Equipment
This is an easy stretch of your chest muscles. Performed with a bat. You can easily do this exercise by having the palms of your slightly bended arm pressed against a wall. Stretching the chest muscles will improve your posture and therefore dampen the long-term damage a bad posture has on your spine.
Hamstrings Stretch – No Equipment Needed
Most hamstring stretching technique only work if you keep your back bended. This is a great alternative. By laying on the ground you make sure you always have good posture. Grab your leg just under the knee cap, then slowly bring it into a fully stretched position.
Hamstrings Stretch – Towel Or Band
This is the same hamstring stretch as before. But here you’re using a towel or a band to increase the stretching effect. This is my personal favourite. Tip: For Beginners, put the towel or the band around your achilles tendon, not around your foot. This will ease the pain.
Stretching is a great way to improve your lower back health. By following my advice and stretching exercises suggested above, you will ease your lower back pain and experience a healthier back.
If you want to find out more ways on relieving lower back pain, check out my other article What Really Works: How to Relieve Lower Back Pain Effectively