Back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world. An estimated 80% of people will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. While any type of back pain can be debilitating for many, lower back pain can be challenging for anyone to manage. However, stretching and strengthening supporting muscles can help bring some relief. Here’s how to stretch your lower back.
How to Stretch Your Lower Back: 6 Stretches for Pain and Tension Relief
Cat and cow stretches are great for easing tension and improving flexibility in the lower back and core. Best of all, this is a stretch that’s easy to perform.
- Start on your hands and knees. Make sure that your knees are hip-width apart.
- Move into cat stretch by rounding your back, pulling your belly button up towards your spine (picture a frightened cat).
- Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
- Return to your starting position.
- Now, move into cow pose by tilting your pelvis towards the floor and raising your head towards the ceiling. Again, there should be an arch at your lower back, moving your belly button towards the floor.
- Hold the stretch for 10 seconds.
- Keep moving between the two stretches in a flow-like way until you feel a good stretch.
2. Seated Forward Bend
Forward bends help stretch out the hamstrings, which are believed to be a contributor to lower back pain. Seated forward bends can help ease tension in your hamstrings while also giving your lower back a nice stretch.
- Start by sitting down on the floor with your legs out in front of you.
- If your hamstrings are incredibly tight, wrap a towel around the bottoms of your feet. You can also use a yoga strap. Otherwise, try to use your hands to grip the bottoms of your feet.
- Slowly bend forward at the hips, moving your torso down towards your thighs. Stretch as far as you can without pain or too much discomfort.
- Use the towel or strap to help pull your torso closer to your thighs.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Repeat the stretch 3 times, with a rest period of 60 seconds between each rep.
3. Supported Bridge
Bridge pose is excellent for stretching the lower back and easing back pain in general. But if you’re not quite ready for the full-bridge pose, you may want to try the supported variation.
For this stretch, you will need a cushion, rolled-up towel, or a foam roller.
- Start by laying down on your back.
- Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor.
- Gently lift up your hips and place your cushion, towel, or roller underneath.
- Relax and allow your support to do the work of stretching your lower back.
- Hold the stretch for up a minute before resting for 60 seconds.
To take this stretch up a notch, extend one or both legs out straight.
4. Knee to Chest
One of the most popular and effective lower back stretches is the knee-to-chest stretch. Along with easing tension and pain, this stretch can also help elongate the lower back.
- Start by laying down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Use both of your hands to grab your left knee and bring it up towards your chest. You should feel a pull or stretch in your lower back. Keep your lower body relaxed.
- Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds.
- Repeat the process on the other leg.
- Perform this stretch three times on each leg.
If you want to increase the intensity of this stretch, try bringing both of your knees to your chest simultaneously and holding the stretch for 30 seconds.
5. Child’s Pose
The child’s pose is a gentle stretch that helps alleviate tension and pain in the back, glutes, thighs, neck, and shoulders. It’s a great all-around stretch and can help you get into a more relaxed state.
Child’s pose is easy to get into:
- Get down on your hands and knees.
- Lower your buttocks back and down towards your heels.
- Keep your arms straight out in front of you and your neck in a neutral position (your gaze should be at the floor).
- Alternatively, you can extend your arms behind you with your palms facing up towards the ceiling.
- Take slow and deep breaths while holding the pose for 60 seconds.
If you need more support, try placing a cushion or rolled-up towel under your thighs. If you want to make the stretch more intense, try widening your knees and resting your forehead on the ground or pillow.
6. Pelvic Tilt
The pelvic tilt stretch helps strengthen your core. A strong core can help alleviate back pain and tension. It’s also a great stretch to perform before or after the supported bridge.
Here’s how to perform a pelvic tilt:
- Start by laying down with both of your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. There should be a natural space between your lower back and the floor.
- Slowly begin arching your lower back. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged and push your stomach out (think upside-down cow pose).
- Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then return to the starting position.
- Now, with your core muscles engaged, flatten your back against the floor.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds, and relax.
These stretches can help elongate and even strengthen lower back muscles. They’re easy to perform virtually anywhere and don’t require special equipment. While stretching is a natural way to combat pain, it’s important to be consistent.
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