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Published on October 31, 2019

7 Best Lower Back Stretches for Relieving Pain

7 Best Lower Back Stretches for Relieving Pain

Are you one of the many who deal with consistent lower back pain? Back pain is a common widespread issue that many experiences, and it’s bothersome. Whatever the cause, whether childbirth, aging, heavy-duty jobs, or some other underlying condition, there is hope and help–and it may not even be that hard to find relief!

Lower back pain isn’t enjoyed by anyone, but there are a few simple stretching hacks that can help relieve the pain.

Many lower back stretches can help relax the muscles and will make a difference. Here we’re going to go over the best lower back stretches to help turn your life around.

Why Your Tight Hips Could Be to Blame

Tight hip flexors could be a contributing factor to your lower back pain. It may sound strange, but it’s true! What does the hip have to do with the back?

The hip bones are connected to the tailbone, leading to the spine. If there is an issue with your hips, that then puts pressure on the lower back, causing you extreme pain.

It’s important to know that tight hip flexors are common, especially amongst those who regularly participate in certain physical activities. Those exercises including horseback riding, cycling, jogging, or anything that works your legs and not your hips. Prolonged sitting and improper posture while sitting can even cause tight hip flexors!

One way to help reduce lower back pain is by working on improving the flexibility in the hips, which can be done with lower back stretches.

The Importance of Core Stability

Many times, it’s ignorantly stated that the core is strictly the abdominal muscles (abs/stomach area), but that’s not true.

The core consists of those front muscles as well as all the muscles on the side of that area, and the back of that area too. When you strengthen your core, you’re also strengthening your lower back. So, why is this important?

There are many core exercises that cause both your abs to be sore the next day and your lower back. That’s because you generally don’t work one without the other being affected in some way. Basically, this means that if you’re hurting your back, it could be that your core as a whole is weak.

Core stability is important because of the location of the core at the center of the body. If the core is unstable, the rest of the body and limbs have to work that much harder. The part that suffers most? The back!

Core training and strengthening can lead to a stable core and reduces the risks of pain and injuries. A weak core puts more strain on the lower back and causes it to tighten. Tight muscles lead to injured muscles, which is never something we want.

Why Is Stretching Good for You?

Stretching the lower back results in the lengthening of the back muscles. It’s the lengthening of those back muscles that results in a reduction of pain. With age, muscles naturally get shorter and tend to be tighter.

Building the muscles around the spine results in the lengthening of those back muscles. A neutral spine and proper posture helps in keeping those muscles surrounding the spine strong.

This is great because strong muscles in the back are muscles that are consistently stretched and lengthened; the stronger the muscles in the back and in the overall core, the less injuries and the less pain! Isn’t that what we all hope for?

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How to Stretch out Your Lower Back

There are various ways to stretch out your lower back. When you try to get rid of lower back pain, it’s important to stretch.[1] However, there are also some things you should be mindful of before stretching. You don’t want to hurt your back more, so remember to take it easy!

It’s important to listen to your body and take it slow when necessary; and sometimes, you may need to stop altogether.

Another thing to keep track of is your breathing. Breathing is very important as well. Make sure you’re following proper breathing techniques before attempting these stretches.[2]

When stretching any part of your body, pain can increase. While a slight discomfort is normal in any stretch, if you’re experiencing pain, you should stop. This is your body’s signal saying it’s best to take a break and maybe try again the next day. If the pain persists and doesn’t go away, see a professional to be sure to rule out anything serious.

The great thing about lower back stretches is that they are easy to do. Lower back stretches can be performed one to two times a day. Are you short on time? Looking for help but need to get it done in less than ten minutes? These lower back stretches will help you meet that goal!

7 Best Stretches for Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain stretches vary, and in some cases, can seem redundant. However, when they’re performed properly, they can really strengthen the back and core, which can lead to less pain over time. Working on flexibility and core stability is so important.

No matter how busy, here are some stretches you can begin implementing in your schedule:

1. Transverse Abdominis Stretch

First, let’s talk about stretching your transverse abdominis.[3] This is the deepest layer of your abdominal muscles. This muscle is used whenever limbs are moved. Because core stability is so important, this stretch can really help your pain.

To stretch out your transverse abs, you’ll want to first lay on your back, propping your head up with anything soft–like a pillow. After you’re comfortable in that position, lift your knees so that they are bent, still keeping your feet on the floor.

While keeping the upper body relaxed, tuck your chin. Then, take a deep breath and tighten your core. Think of drawing your belly button down to the ground beneath you. As you release this breath, you’ll want to loosen your muscles. Repeat a minimum of five times. Be sure to breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly as well.

Here’s a demonstration:

This exercise is rather simple, but being sure the breathing, contracting, and releasing are done in the proper order is key. The propping of your head is also important, so make sure to use a pillow!

2. Bird Dog

    Next, here’s an exercise that is more targeted towards your lower back and its mobility. In the fitness world, it’s known as the “Bird Dog” stretch.

    In this stretch, you’ll want to start on your hands and knees with a flat back. Think of your form as a tabletop. The key here is keeping the spine in a neutral position, so be sure to keep your back straight while performing the exercise. Don’t arch your back.

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    Place your hands directly beneath the shoulders. Being sure that your hands start under the shoulders and knees under your hips, breathe in. While breathing out, you want to raise the opposite arm and leg.

    Breathe out while you release those limbs. After holding for a minimum of five seconds, you’ve completed a round. Repeat this exercise eight to ten times being sure to alternate sides.

    3. Bridge

      This next exercise is exactly what it sounds like. You’re making a bridge with your lower body while your arms relax on the floor.[4]

      First, you’ll want to lie down on your back on a towel or an exercise mat. Choose whatever brings more comfort. Then, you want to bend your knees, keeping the distance between your knees no more than hip width apart.

      Breathe in and while you blow that breath out, you want to lift your hips using your arms as a light form of leverage. The key is to lift the hips high enough to line up with the spine and the height of your knees. That brings everything into a straight line, which is when you will feel a light stretch.

      When lowering your hips back to the ground, make sure you’re breathing out. Repeat this stretch eight to ten times.

      4. Pelvic Tilt

        This exercise focuses on the lower back.

        Start on your back with something serving as a small cushion under your head. Same as the other exercises, you’ll want to bend your knees while your legs are slightly apart, no wider than hip distance.[5]

        While keeping your upper body relaxed and chin tucked, draw your lower back into the floor, gently. You should feel your stomach muscles contracting. While your muscles are contracted, shift your pelvis in a forward and up motion, then release. Repeat in a slow and steady rocking motion for a minimum of eight times.

        5. Hip Stretch

          Because tight hip flexors often contribute to lower back pain, stretching your hips can reduce the pain that you feel.

          In this stretch, you’ll want to start on the ground kneeling with one knee up. Both knees don’t need to remain on the ground in this stretch. The opposite foot should be in front of the body with knee bent 90 degrees.

          While in the straddling knee position, push/shift your hips forward and always be mindful to keep your back straight. Hold that stretch for a minimum of 20 seconds and release. Repeat a minimum of two times on alternating knees.

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          When performed accurately, this stretch feels very good to the hip flexors.

          6. Spine Stretch

            This stretch is obviously stretching out your spine, and in the case of lower back pain, this exercise is an excellent tool.

            Start out lying on your back and placing some form of cushion under your head.

            Keep your knees bent and firmly together during the entirety of this stretch.

            Place your arms out wide in a T-shape in correlation with the rest of your body. You want to slowly move your knees from one side of the body to the other side.

            Breathe out as you shift from one side to the other, and be sure to keep shoulders intact with the ground. When turning your body, be sure to shift your pelvis to each side. That will give you the full stretch, which will be more beneficial to your lower back.

            Repeat this exercise a minimum of six times, being sure to alternate sides, counting both sides as one repetition.

            7. Gluteal Stretch

              There is a muscle in the buttocks that can cause lower back pain and tightening. The hips and abdominal muscles can play a part in back pain, but the glutes are a very popular offender.

              The piriformis is the name of the gluteal muscle that can cause lower back pain if not stretched, so it’s important to stretch it out!

              For this butt stretch, you simply lie on the ground while crossing one ankle over the opposite knee. It feels like an awkward position, but once you begin the stretch, it will feel really good.

              After you place the ankle across the opposite knee, you want to grab the thigh of the leg the ankle is resting on. While breathing in, you want to grab the thigh. And while breathing out, you want to pull that thigh into your chest as far as you can stretch it.

              Holding this exercise for a minimum of 20 seconds will give you maximum results. Repeat at least two times on each side.

              How to Relieve Your Lower Back Pain

              Relieving a Stiff Lower Back

              For a stiff lower back, it’s likely to happen if you live in a cold climate, or have any form of arthritis that tends to flare up due to aging, or when the weather shifts.

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              Stiffness has many leading factors with one being a cold body. Cold weather can make your back ache, so try to keep inside during the winter.

              Back stiffness can also be caused by spasms in the back, injuries that lead to stiffness, improper lifting, and in some cases, lumbar arthritis.

              However, it’s also important to note that any strain to the spine can result in lower back stiffness.

              Many times, lower back stiffness develops due to a lack of mobility and activity. If you aren’t one to go to the gym or lift weights, then be sure to take advantage of the above lower back stretches as often as you can.

              Alleviating Lower Back Inflammation

              Lower back pain can sometimes be the result of inflammation within the lower back muscles. When there is inflammation, over the counter medications can be taken. Physical therapy and chiropractic care are also options.

              Many people also find that hot and cold compresses can help. Ice packs work best when inflammation occurs after a strain or injury of some sort. When using ice with any injury on any part of the body, always be sure to wrap the ice in something, so that there isn’t direct contact to your body.

              Heat to the lower back to help alleviate pain is beneficial as well. It can not only provide pain relief but can also present certain healing factors to the lower back.[6]

              When your lower back becomes tense, there is generally improper circulation in that area. Therefore, heat plays a part by causing blood vessels to dilate, which results in better circulation.

              Tense muscles become tense due to prolonged standing or sitting, stress, a pulled or strained muscle, or certain injuries.

              Besides, you can also try these five tips:

              • Wear comfortable and supportive shoes.
              • Sit in proper chairs that help keep back properly aligned.
              • Watch your posture while standing, sitting, or exercising.
              • When lifting use your legs and not your back (proper lifting is a must).
              • Be mindful of your stress level, keep it low.

              The Bottom Line

              Lower back pain can often be alleviated or ruled out all together with just a few simple tricks. Start with the seven best lower back stretches and see how you feel. However, if you keep experiencing pain, always remember that it’s important to see a medical professional. Cost is often an issue with people seeing a medical professional, but there are many doctors who work with you if you don’t have insurance.[7]

              Remember, it’s easier to get your back fixed now than later on when you need surgery or something else!

              Featured photo credit: Form via unsplash.com

              Reference

              More by this author

              Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.

              Chiropractic doctor currently leading over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles – without addictive drugs or invasive surgeries.

              7 Best Lower Back Stretches for Relieving Pain 12 Causes of Lower Right Back Pain (And How to Relieve It) 12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain How to Sleep with Lower Back Pain Using These 13 Tips How to Prevent Neck Pain from Sleeping (And Quick Fixes to Help You)

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              Last Updated on November 15, 2019

              10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

              10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

              Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, these bad habits are difficult to break because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

              Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental and emotional health.

              Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

              If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

              Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

              1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

              Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

              Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

              Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

              2. No Motivation

              Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academics and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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              This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family and life in general.

              If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

              3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

              Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to break bad habits.

              A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to eventually become a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

              A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

              The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

              4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

              One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

              We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

              Over-eating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of crisps, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are needed by us. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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              You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

              5. Upward Comparisons

              Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

              The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

              These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

              6. No Alternative

              This is a real and valid reason why bad habits are hard to break. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

              Someone who has physical or psychological limitations such as a disability or social anxiety may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

              Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

              Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

              7. Stress

              As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing bad habits.

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              When a person is stressed about something, it is easy to give in to a bad habit because the mental resources required to fight them are not available.

              Stress plays such a huge role in this that we commonly find a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

              8. Sense of Failure

              People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

              Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

              Over-eaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store.

              Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

              If such people slip even once with a glass of wine or a smoke or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

              9. The Need to Be All-New

              People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

              These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit.

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              10. Force of Habit

              Humans are creatures of habit and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

              Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or munching on crisps when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

              These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

              Final Thoughts

              These are the main reasons why bad habits may be difficult to break but it is important to remember that the task is not impossible.

              Do you have bad habits you want to kick? My article How to Break a Bad Habit (and Replace It With a Good One) gives you tips on well, how to kick bad habits while my other article How Long Does It Take to Break a Habit? Science Will Tell You gives realistic information on what to expect while you’re trying to quit them.

              There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

              Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?

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