10 Stretches to Relieve Lower Back Pain

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I like to lift heavy.

Usually, I lift very heavy weights 3 times per week. The other 1 to 2 days, I do Covert Cardio type workouts, go for a jog or just foam roll and stretch.

This week, when I worked out my legs, I went heavy. And I mean HEAVY. Box Squats, Straight Legged Deadlifts, Leg Extensions, Leg Curls and Calves.

Every exercise had me straining. So much, in fact, that I felt my back twinge slightly on the 3rd heavy set of box squats. I planned for 3 sets of 3 at my maximum weight, but after feeling a twinge in my low back after the 2nd rep of my 3rd set, I decided to play it safe and finish right there.

A few days after feeling this twinge and I felt fine. But it got me thinking about back pain and low back pain specifically.

Even though I’m not the most flexible person, I still tend to stretch a lot, especially before a workout. But lately, I know I haven’t been stretching as much as I should be, and that’s probably the reason I felt a twinge in my second set.

I have a pretty dialed in routine that I do and I really think that it saves me a lot of back pain and complications that other people tend to have.

I’ve noticed that the more flexible I am, the stronger my back feels overall, and I the less issues I get.

Now, in a perfect world, I would probably do yoga once or twice a week to keep everything limber, but in reality, I don’t have time to go to yoga classes and I’ve found a study that proves stretching is just as effective as yoga in relieving back pain. It’s science.

So stretches are just fine to loosen up the back and not only that but they help mobilize my hips to provide a better, stronger squat. And more importantly, it just feels good.

The hips and lower back are designed to move. Ideally, you want your hips to move and your lower back to be the one that’s steady and still, however, with desk jobs, sitting in cars, and overall lack of mobility as you get older, the back tends to take on more and more movement.

The spinal column and its contiguous muscles, ligaments and tendons are all designed to move, and limitations in this motion can make back pain worse.

Now here’s some more science:

Vertebral Bodies in the Lumbar Spine (Lower Back)

The lumbar spine has five vertebral bodies that extend from the lower thoracic spine (upper back) to the sacrum (bottom of the spine). The vertebral bodies of the lower back are the largest of the spine because they bear the majority of the body’s weight.

The paired facet joints on the back of the vertebral segments are aligned so that they allow flexion/extension but not a lot of rotation. Most causes of back pain originate in the lumbar spine.

Below are some of my favorite stretches that when done, make my back stronger, more stable, and less likely to get weird while lifting:

If you have a bulging disc, slipped disc, floppy disc or anything else that would be affected in a negative way like osteoarthritis, please don’t do these stretches.

Child’s Pose

childspose

Muscles emphasized: latissimus dorsi.

Being on the ground with your hands and your knees on the floor, slowly bring your hips back until your forehead is on the floor. If you want a better stretch in your hips, you should bring your knees wider. Your upper back should be positioned in the shape of an arch, and then you should externally rotate your shoulders to stretch your lats and chest muscles. source

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

hipflexorstretch

Muscles emphasized: psoas and quadriceps.

Begin in the position of half-kneeling. Then you should bring forward the right hip, and you should also start feeling a stretch in the front of your hip while you do that. Take your back foot and squeeze your back glute in order to add to the stretch on your hip flexors. source

Supine Twist

supine twist - low back pain

Muscles emphasized: glutes and external obliques.

This stretch is especially beneficial for people who suffer from sciatica pain. Begin by lying flat on your back and then bring one leg across your body, and gradually rotate your gaze and upper body in the opposite direction. What’s important about this stretch is the fact that you use your breath to open up your rib cage and sacroiliac joint and hip area without putting too much pressure on the lower back. If this stretch is too hard for you, stack both of your knees on top of each other, and when you are positioned this way you will feel more stretch on the upper spine when the knees are higher, and more stretch on the lumbar spine when the knees are lower. source

Forward Fold

forward fold stretch

This refers to: Hamstrings.

Put one foot in front of the other. Place your hands to your hips and while keeping the back straight, begin to bend from the hips. source

Triangle Pose

triangle pose stretch

Triangle pose is great for strengthening the back and legs and can help lengthen your muscles along the sides of your torso while stretching the muscle fibers along your outer hip (your IT, or iliotibial, band).

Start standing straight with your feet together. Next, lunge your left foot back three to four feet, and point your left foot out at a 45-degree angle. Turn your chest to the side and open up the pose by stretching your right arm toward the ground and left arm toward the ceiling, keeping both your right and left legs straight. You may not be able to touch the ground with your right arm at first, so don’t over-stretch — only bend as far as you can while maintaining a straight back. Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch to the other side, and repeat as needed. source

Knee to Chest

knee to chest stretch

While lying on one’s back, pull both knees to the chest while simultaneously flexing the head forward until a comfortable stretch is felt in a balled-up position. source

Supine Piriformis Stretch

supine piriformis stretch

The piriformis muscle runs from the back of the femur (thigh bone) to the sacrum (base of the spine). Tightness in this muscle has been linked to sacroiliac joint dysfunction and even sciatica-type pain along the sciatic nerve.

To stretch the piriformis, lie on your back and cross the involved leg over the other. With both knees bent, place both hands together under the knee of the other leg (the lower leg), and gently pull the bottom leg toward your chest and hold both thighs closely until a stretch is felt in the buttock area. source

Pigeon Stretch

pigeonstretch

From all-fours, bring your right knee behind your right wrist with your lower leg at a diagonal toward your left hip. Square off your hips toward the ground. Bend forward. Widen the elbows and place one hand on top of the other as a pillow for your forehead. Hold 2-3 minutes and then switch to the left side for 2-3 minutes. source

Laying Towel Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring-Stretching-towel

Lie on your back and bend one knee. Loop a towel under the ball of your foot. Straighten your knee and slowly pull back on the towel. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Hold for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Do 2 to 4 times for each leg. source

Cat & Cow

cat-and-cow-back stretch

Position yourself on your hands and knees (A). Slowly let your back and abdomen sag toward the floor (B). Then slowly arch your back, as if you’re pulling your abdomen up toward the ceiling (C). Return to the starting position (A). Repeat three to five times twice a day. source

Try all of these stretches in a quick 10-minute routine once a day and watch as your flexibility increases as well as your lower back pain subsides.

Writing for an empty room called the internet can be a lonely place. So please, if you have any questions or comments, leave them below in the comment section and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

Sincerely,
Verner Dixon

 

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