Back pain comes in many forms. You might feel a dull ache throughout the day that prevents you from moving comfortably or you could experience spasms that interrupt your work and life. Fortunately, there are many non-surgical ways to treat lower back pain to help you feel better and get back to the activities you enjoy.
Your doctor might recommend a series of stretches to ease your discomfort and loosen up your back. These don’t have to take a lot of time and they shouldn’t be painful. Here are a few common stretches recommended by doctors and how to perform them correctly.
What Stretches Are Good For Lower Back Pain
These stretches are specifically meant to help lower back pain. Take your time learning each one and make sure you are doing them correctly. Talk to your doctor, physical therapist, or fitness professional if you have any questions so they can guide you through the motions.
1. Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is meant to be comforting. It is used in yoga to help people focus their breathing and prepare for a successful session. To get into child’s pose, sit on the ground with your knees tucked underneath you. Lean forward until your forearms and forehand touch the ground. Try to sit back so you are resting on your heels – your hips should not be up in the air for this stretch.
You can lightly stretch your arms in front of you or tuck them by your side. Do what makes you most comfortable.
2. Knee-to-chest stretch
Lie on your back to complete this stretch. Keep one leg on the ground in a relaxed position, either resting in front of you or propped up with your foot flat on the ground – whatever feels more comfortable. With your knee bent, start to bring your other leg slowly to your chest, until you feel a deep stretch.
There is no rush with stretching and there’s no need to overexert yourself. Bring your leg up as far as it feels comfortable until it is resting on your chest. You can also hug this leg and hold it if you feel comfortable. After holding this stretch, lower your leg back to a resting position and repeat with the other side.
Not only will a knee-to-chest stretch feel good on your lower back, but it can also benefit your hamstrings and even the quadriceps on your legs.
3. Piriformis stretch
Once you finish your knee-to-chest stretch, you can stay on your back to complete this next exercise. Place both of your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Then lift your left leg and rest the ankle on your right knee. It should look like you are trying to cross your legs while sitting down. From there, wrap your arms around your right thigh and gently pull it toward your chest. Your right foot should also leave the ground.
Once you finish your Piriformis stretch on one side, return both feet to the ground and then repeat on the other side. Place your right ankle on your left knee and then pull your left leg toward your chest. Try to maintain your balance through this process.
4. Pelvic Tilt
This is a seemingly simple exercise, but you want to make sure you do it correctly. To complete a pelvic tilt, lie on your back with your feet resting on the floor and your knees bent. At this point, your spine will naturally curve upward near your lower back. When you are ready, exhale and rock your hips toward your head. You should feel your lower back pressing into the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds and then release it as you inhale.
Through this stretch, you are essentially straightening your spine with the help of the floor. There are other variations you can try, including pelvic tilts along the wall or with an exercise ball. Make sure your doctor approves you to do these variations first.
The cat-cow stretch is done on your hands and knees. Start in a neutral position with your back feeling relaxed. As you inhale, drop your back and lift your head up. (it helps to picture a cow smelling a flower to get the position right). When you are ready to exhale, arch your back like a cat that has seen something it is scared of. Tuck your tailbone and your head, but don’t force your chin to your chest. Return to cow pose as you inhale and repeat.
Why You Should Stretch Your Back To Prevent Future Pain
Stretching is a free and easy way to strengthen your muscles and make them feel loose and mobile. Stretching improves blood flow and activates muscle tissue, which is important for supporting your back. You might not think of stretching as strength training, but it is a good place to start if you are looking for simple, low-impact ways to improve your health.
Stretching can also undo some of the damage that you put on your spine throughout the day. If you hunch over at your desk, your spine becomes compressed and curved. Basic stretches allow the bones, joints, and muscles to take new positions while relieving pressure from tight areas. If you regularly lift heavy objects or stand for several hours at work, stretching can help your body recover from these burdens.
After you stretch, enjoy a glass of water. This will help you hydrate and keep your muscles healthy. These are just two activities you can take on to improve your spinal health and treat back pain.
How Often Should You Stretch?
Doing stretches properly is important to support your back health; however, it is also important to do them frequently and for the right length of time. Your doctor should walk you through how often to do your back stretches and there are also industry best practices you can follow.
Practice your back stretches two to three times each day. If your doctor tells you to stretch less often, don’t overexert yourself. When you go into a stretch, hold it for around 30 seconds. You can hold it for longer if it feels comfortable. You should be able to feel your muscles engaging but you shouldn’t be in pain. If you are in a significant amount of pain, adjust the stretch.
You can rest in a single position during your stretch or try to go into a deeper stretch throughout the 30 seconds. For example, during the seated spinal twist, you can start with your palm or forearm resting on your knee and then relax into a deeper twist that goes past your elbow. Avoid bouncing to get a deeper stretch and don’t push yourself to pain.
Perform each stretch two or three times. If you are doing a repetitive stretch, like the cat-cow, alternate positions at least eight times total.
These stretches are most likely to be effective if you do them regularly. Consider setting an alarm each day to do your stretches or set memorable times when you will do them. Some people stretch after each meal while others stretch shortly after they wake up and before they go to bed each day. Do what feels right to form a habit.
Talk to a Doctor About Your Back Pain
These stretches for lower back pain can provide relief from pain, tightness, and achiness. However, not all back pain can be treated by stretches. While these activities can reduce your pain levels, you may need additional treatment to restore your mobility and increase your comfort.
Don’t wait for back pain to go away. It could just as likely get worse to the point where you can’t enjoy life. Once you notice persistent pain in your lower back, make an appointment to see a doctor.
If you live near Beverly Hills, Miami, or Palm Beach, request an appointment with Dr. Todd H. Lanman, a board-certified, award-winning spinal neurosurgeon. Dr. Lanman works with patients from all walks of life and patients travel from around the globe to seek his care. He has presented numerous papers at national and regional medical society meetings and is often sought out as the principal investigator for various clinical trials. As someone who has experienced back pain and surgery as a patient as well, Dr. Lanman is dedicated to helping his patients eliminate pain and take back their quality of life.
Don’t let your back pain become unbearable. Request a consultation today and take the first steps to good spinal health.