Back pain is very common and can become debilitating if left untreated. Stretching regularly can help relieve your symptoms and in combination with an appropriate strengthening program, it can also help to strengthen your core and back musculature. Stretching helps to lengthen a muscle, create more space and relieve some tension in the affected area. Stretching may also help: Improve your circulation, improve range of motion, decrease your risk of injury, decrease pain and promote overall wellbeing, especially when deep-breathing/connected breathing techniques are incorporated into your stretching program.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Approximately 25% of the American population admits to having experienced back pain within the last 3 months. In adolescents, the overall risk of low back pain is similar to adults, with prevalence rates as high as 70% to 80% by 20 years of age according to the Clinical Practice Guidelines: Low Back Pain published in the Journal of Orthopedics and Sports Physical Therapy.
The stretches listed below are designed to help relieve your back pain and get you back to doing the things you love. You should discontinue these exercises and consult a Physical Therapist if you experience increased pain or change or loss of sensation. If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis, you should consult your physical therapist before performing these stretches.
Doing a knee-to-chest stretch can help elongate the lower back, relieving tension and pain. To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:
Lie on your back on the floor.
Bend the knees slightly, keeping your heels on the floor.
Use both hands to pull one knee in toward the chest.
Hold the knee against the chest for 5 seconds, keeping the abdominals tight and pressing the spine into the floor.
Return to the starting position.
Repeat with the opposite leg.
Repeat with each leg 2–3 times twice a day.
Cat Stretch or “Cat – Cow”
The cat stretch or “cat-cow” can help lengthen the back, make it stronger, and ease tension in the muscles. To perform the cat stretch:
Get onto the hands and knees with the knees hip-width apart.
Arch the back, pulling the belly button up toward the spine.
Slowly relax the muscles and allow the abdomen to sag toward the floor.
Return to the starting position.
Repeat 3–5 times twice a day.
This traditional yoga pose gently stretches your gluteus maximus, thigh muscles, and spinal extensors. It helps to relieve pain and tension all along your spine, neck, and shoulders. To do Child’s Pose, follow these steps:
With your hands and knees on the ground, sink back through your hips to rest them on your heels.
Hinge at your hips as you fold forward, walking your hands out in front of you.
Rest your belly on your thighs.
Extend your arms in front of or alongside your body with your palms facing up.
Focus on breathing deeply and relaxing any areas of tension or tightness.
Hold this pose for up to 1 minute
This stretch targets your piriformis muscle, which is found deep in your buttocks. Stretching this muscle may help relieve pain and tightness in your buttocks and lower back. To do a piriformis stretch, follow these steps:
Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you.
Cross your right leg over your left, and place your right foot flat on the floor.
Place your right hand on the floor behind your body.
Place your left hand on your right quad or your left elbow on your right knee and press your right leg to the left as you twist your torso to the right.
If the spinal rotation bothers your back, take it out and simply use your left hand to pull your right quad in and to the left.
The Cobra stretch is a gentle backbend that allows you to be both active and relaxed. This baby backbend stretches and strengthens your spine, buttocks, and chest. To do the Cobra stretch, follow these steps:
Lie on your stomach with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your hands extended in front, palms facing down.
Set your feet slightly apart. It’s okay for your big toes to touch.
Gently engage your lower back, buttocks, and thighs as you lift your head and chest.
Stay strong in your lower back and abdominals, breathing deeply.
Press your pelvis into the floor.
Gaze straight ahead or gently close your eyes.
Hold this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
This stretch will help to improve standing posture and alleviate back pain when you have been sitting for a long time. To do this stretch, follow these steps:
Stand up tall, place your hands on your hips
Keeping your knees straight, standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart
Bend backward slowly to a comfortable position and hold for a few seconds
Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed, avoid looking up – keep yours eyes fixated forward
Don’t hold your breath as you do this exercise, repeat 10-20 times
**Do not complete if you have spinal stenosis, consult your physician or PT