Lower back pain is described as the most common work-related musculoskeletal disorder.
It can be annoying and can affect your daily activities. However, there is good news- there are stretches you can do anywhere to help relieve it and prevent the stubborn back pain from returning.
In this article, we will be looking at the best 10 stretches you can do to get some relief at your lower back.
10 Stretches For Lower Back Pain
1. Child’s Pose
- Child’s pose is a resting pose that stretches out the muscles at the lower back.
- Go down on fours
- Ensure your wrists are directly under your shoulders in a straight line and your knees directly under your hips
- Move your body to the back to sit on your heels with your arms stretched out in front of you
- Maintain this pose for 30 seconds
- Release and return to the starting position
2. Piriformis Stretch
- One of the major causes of low back pain is a tight piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a muscle in the buttock. It starts from the sacrum so when it gets tight it affects the mobility of the back.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent
- Place your right ankle on your bent left knee
- Put your two hands behind your left thigh
- Use your two hands to pull your left thigh towards your chest
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Release and repeat on the other side
3. Knee To Chest Stretches
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor
- Pull your knee towards your chest with your two hands
- Hold for 30 seconds
- Release and repeat on the other leg
- This can be done with both knees towards your chest
- It will look like you are hugging your knees
4. Downward Facing Dog
- This pose stretches the hamstrings, calves and the lower back muscles
- Go on fours on your mat. This means your palms and knees should be on the mat
- Your wrist should be directly under your shoulder and your knees directly under your hips in a straight line
- Push back through your hands, straighten your elbows and lift your hips towards the ceiling and straighten your knees
- Let your heels reach for the ground. They do not have to touch the ground but if your heels can, why not?
- Your palms should be shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart
- Hold for 30 seconds and slowly go back to starting position
5. Pigeon Pose
- This pose stretches the hip flexors and also stretches the lower back muscles
- Go into a downward facing dog position
- Take your right leg to the back
- Slide your right leg forward under you towards your wrist with your right knee bent
- Keep your left leg straight behind you and ensure your right buttock is on the mat
- Place your palms by your side and slowly bend from your waist forward to rest on your bent right leg
- Extend your arms in front of you
- Hold for 20 seconds
- Release and repeat on the other leg
6. Cat-Cow Pose
- Go on all fours on the mat
- Ensure your wrist is directly under your shoulder and your knees directly under your hips to avoid strain on your wrist
- Curve your back out with your head pointing towards the ground and then slowly curve your back in with your head pointing towards the ceiling
- Repeat 5 times
7. Forward Fold
- Stand erect with your feet slightly apart
- Raise your two hands over your head
- Contract your abdominal muscles and slowly bend from your waist with your hands reaching for the mat with your palms in front of your toes
- Bend your knees slightly
- Remain in this position for 20 – 30 seconds
- Slowly come up and return to starting position
8. Seated Spine Twist
- Sit on a mat with your legs straight in front of you
- Bend your right knee and then cross it over your straight left leg
- Twist your upper body towards the right and place your left elbow in front of your right knee
- Place your left hand behind you
- Stay in this position for 20 – 30 seconds
- Release and repeat on the other side
9. Quad Rockers
- Go on all fours on a mat
- Rock your body back into a child’s pose then rock your body forward past your wrists
- Repeat this rocking for 30 seconds
10. Static Lunge
- One of the major causes of low back pain is tight hip flexors. This exercise stretches the hip flexors and then causes a domino effect to relieve pain at the lower back.
- Stand on a mat with feet together and look straight ahead
- Take a big step forward with your right leg
- Lower your body towards the ground till your knee is flexed at 90 degrees
- A stretch will be felt in the thigh of the left leg
- Hold for 5 seconds and continue by alternating the legs till you have done 10 reps.
Why Do We Have To Stretch?
Stretching has a lot of positive benefits to the body. Stretches are not only recommended for pain relief but for pain prevention and avoiding a reoccurrence.
Some of the major benefits of stretching are:
- It increases the range of movement of a stiff joint.
- It reduces tension in the muscle. A tense or tight muscle can lead to lower back pain.
- It increases blood flow. Imagine drinking with a straw and someone holds the straw midway. No drink goes into the mouth and the drinker gets frustrated. The same applies to a tight muscle. There may be a restriction of blood flow which may lead to muscle soreness. Stretching on a regular basis can increase blood flow to the muscles.
Precautions To Take While Stretching
- Before doing any of these stretches, see a doctor or a physiotherapist first. Some of these stretches may not be suitable in certain conditions like pregnancy. This can be affected by the cause of the pain. If tight hamstring is causing back pain then there is no need to stretch the hip flexors.
- The stretch does not have to be 100% accurate. All that matters is the correct technique.
- Do not bounce while doing a stretch as it can cause an injury
- Always warm up before stretching. A warmed up muscle will be supple and pliable for stretching.
- Do not force the body. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
- Sitting for long periods of time without getting up to stretch or move around. This is known as being a couch potato or having a sedentary lifestyle.
- Lifting with your back and not your legs like going into a forward fold and coming up with a heavy load. Imagine what the back is going through. This causes a strain on the muscles or a sprain to the ligaments causing pain. It can also cause the intervertebral disc to slip out of place.
- Not sitting properly while working or driving. Most drivers tend to tilt to one side with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand against the window or on the armrest. Some muscles will tighten up and some will be overstretched which can cause pain.
- The lower back is made up of just bones and a lot of muscles to stabilize them. The core muscles and the back muscles work together but if one of these muscles get weak, another muscle is overworking itself which can lead to a strain in that muscle and cause pain.
- Between our vertebrae, we have cartilages that allow for easy movement of the bones on each other. These cartilages act as lubricants to avoid friction. However, as we grow older, this lubricant begins to dry up and then we begin to have friction which causes pain. This is known as a degenerative change.
- The muscles of the body work in synergy. The muscles of the back support the muscles of the legs, the neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles work together and the list goes on. However, when a particular muscle gets tight, it affects the muscle balance. Tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors affect the mobility of the back which causes pain.
- A fall that involves landing on the back or a rear-end collision in a car can cause pain.
- Physiological changes like pregnancy can cause pain because of the weight of the growing fetus on the lower back.
- Medical conditions like kidney stones, cancer, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, some pelvic disorders, and obesity.
How Else Can Lower Back Pain Be Treated?
When seeing a doctor, an XRay or an MRI may be suggested to see what exactly is happening at the lower back region. The x-ray will show if there are any changes to the bone and if the normal curve of the lumbar spine, which is curved inwards. An MRI will show the integrity of the intervertebral discs and if there is any nerve compression.
A lumbar corset or back support is worn to support the back muscles and prevent unnecessary movements at the back. Wearing this will prevent you from bending forward to lift heavy objects and plays a role in assisting the correction of your posture.
A lumbar roll, a backrest or a pillow can be placed at the lower back to maintain the normal curvature of the lumbar spine which is meant to be curved inwards.
Analgesics and muscle relaxants are prescribed to relieve pain and relax any tense or contracted muscles in the body that may be causing pain.
Physiotherapists relieve pain through physical means. Drugs are not used. The physiotherapist will look out for tight muscles, deformities that may have caused pain or formed by the pain will ask questions concerning your day to day activities and your social history. After all the assessment, the physiotherapist will:
- Use ice, heat or therapeutic massage such as myofascial release to help relieve pain
- Recommend stretching and strengthening exercises for tight muscles and weak muscles respectively
- Educate on proper sitting and lying posture to relieve pressure on your back
- Recommend a lumbar support
- Correct any deformities. Spasms can cause the lumbar spine to be straight which is not anatomically correct or due to pain, avoiding some certain movements may force us to tilt to one side or make our lumbar spine curve to get deeper.
- Correct how we do some certain activities. A major example is when we want to get off the bed, we usually sit up from lying on our back which is not ideal. The best way is to turn to your side of preference then push up from that position to sitting.
Can Lower Back Pain Be Avoided?
Yes, it can in the following ways:
- Being active and exercising regularly
- Reducing the time spent sitting
- Stretch breaks at work or meetings or even at presentations. Just 5 minutes for 5 times in a day goes a long way.
- Sitting correctly
- Lifting the right way
- Wearing the right kind of shoes especially if your job involves a lot of standing and walking
Low back pain is a very disturbing form of pain that can hinder your regular daily activities and is the reason why most workers are excused from work. Some of the major causes of low back pain are usually work related and can actually be prevented if enough advice and education are given to them. Stretches are a nonpharmacological way of relieving and preventing back pain and can be done anywhere and at any time.