If you’re struggling to manage your aching lower back, you’re far from alone: according to the CDC, almost 40% of U.S. adults have some form of back pain. Worse, this pain can make it hard or even impossible to go about your busy day, even if you’re in the initial stages of getting treatment.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple stretches you can do at home to ease your lower back pain, allowing you to get fast relief as needed in just a few minutes. Here are some of our most frequently recommended exercises for anyone dealing with an aching back.
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In addition to stretching the spine and hips, this simple stretch is a great way to strengthen various muscles that are crucial to your lower back health.
To begin, lie on your back. Bend your knees to bring your feet shoulder-width apart. Allow your arms to extend out beside your body.
Next, squeeze your glutes and engage your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine, which is easier to do on an exhale.
Lift your hips toward the ceiling, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. You’ll hold this position for around 20-30 seconds before lowering your hips.
2. Cat-Cow Pose
If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you’ve likely run into this popular stretch before. Cat-cow poses offer a gentle stretch that elongates the spine and opens up the chest, making it ideal for both upper and lower back pain.
Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your spine should be in a neutral position.
Move into cow pose on an inhale by pushing your stomach toward the floor while lifting your chin and chest. To move into cat pose, round your spine upward and tuck in your tailbone, letting your head drop toward the floor.
You can continue cycling through cat and cow poses as you breathe, coordinating your movements with the gentle flow.
3. Bird Dog
This back stretch involves a little more balance and strength than the others on this list, but the rewards are great: better stability, lower back pain relief, and stronger muscles in your core, hips, and back.
As with cat-cow pose, you’ll begin with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Your spine should be straight and your hips should be squared, and this should be true throughout the entire exercise.
Begin by tightening your abs and drawing your shoulder blades together. Raise your right arm and left leg, creating a straight line with your body from hand to foot. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before switching sides.
Note that it’s crucial to maintain good form here, including tightened abdominal muscles throughout the exercise. If you need to, try lifting your limbs a few inches off the ground at first until you have the coordination and strength to complete the full exercise.
4. Knee to Chest Stretch
The knee to chest stretch may seem too simple to work, but you’d be surprised how much pain relief it can offer for your lumbar spine!
To begin, lie on your back with your hips level and your legs extended.
Bend your left leg, pulling it toward your chest by placing your hands over your knee. You can either keep your right leg extended, or you can bend it a little if there’s too much of a stretch or if you struggle to pull your left knee all the way to your chest. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds, relaxing your lower back as much as you can, and then switch legs.
5. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Hamstring stretches are a favorite among our physical therapists, and it’s easy to see why. The hamstrings play in our lower back health, and proper stretches can help elongate the muscle while offering great pain relief.
From a standing position, you’ll extend your right leg out in front of you with the heel against the floor. Lean forward by bending at the hips, and pull your abs inward. Put your hands on your left leg for balance and bend your left knee slightly.
If you struggle to maintain a bent left knee, you can also place your right leg onto an elevated surface, such as a step or a chair, while keeping the left knee straight as you lean forward.
Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, and then switch legs.
6. Back Extension
Back extensions are a great way to relieve pressure on the spine while stretching the lower back, though you’ll want to take your time by moving into position slowly.
You’ll begin by lying on your front with your legs straight and your hands on either side of your shoulders.
Tighten your core, press your hips into the floor, and slowly lift your upper back. Be sure to keep the head in a neutral position. You should lift only enough to give you a gentle stretch: arching your back too much all at once can strain your lower back.
7. Thoracic Extension Stretch
If you have a foam roller at home, you’ll have the opportunity to do a great stretch that can improve mobility in your thoracic spine while stretching your lower back. If you don’t have a foam roller, rolling up a thick towel can offer the same relief!
Begin by sitting on the ground with your knees bent, placing the foam roller behind you. When you lean back, the foam roller should be right below your shoulder blades. From here, you’ll support your neck by placing your hands behind it.
Lower your shoulders, slowly letting them fall toward the floor enough to feel a slight stretch without strain. Pause here for a second or two without lifting your lower body, and then return to the starting position.
Take Charge of Your Own Lower Back Pain
Dealing with lower back pain can be a serious chore, but it’s worth remembering that there are plenty of easy stretches you can do at home for quick relief between appointments. Note that these exercises are safe for most low back issues, but your medical team here at Total Vitality might recommend simple changes to keep them safe for your particular pain source.
As you work to treat your pain, don’t forget that we’re here to help! Reach out today to learn more about our state-of-the-art medical, rehabilitative, and wellness services.
Dr. Adam Rosoff is a Chiropractic Physician at Total Vitality Medical Group. Dr. Rosoff has helped thousands of patients by utilizing the most current evidence-based approach. Dr. Rosoff earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Central Florida and went on to earn his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.