When you're dealing with the aches and often debilitating soreness of lower-back pain, there's a good chance all you want to do is stay in bed. Yet research found that any kind of exercise - whether it's core strengthening, aerobic exercise, or stretching - is the best way to ease pain and reduce the risk of another back pain attack.
The nice thing about gentle stretching is that it's feasible to do when you're in pain—and often provides the fastest relief, says trainer Jamie Costello, who recommends these 5 stretches for the next time back pain strikes.
A few tips to keep in mind before you get started: Try to hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds and preferably 30 seconds or longer. The pain-relieving benefits will increase the longer you hold these stretches, says Costello. What's more, these stretches will feel even better if you enjoy them. Rather than rush through the moves, Costello recommends turning on soothing music and using this stretching time as a chance to relax and renew.
Photograph by fizkes/Getty Images
This movement not only helps to stretch your lower back but also your glutes, which can tighten when you're experiencing low back pain, ultimately causing more pain.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms out to the side in a "T" position. Keep your shoulders on the ground as you gently roll both knees to one side. Stay here 20 to 30 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. If the stretch is too much for you, place a pillow or stack of blankets under your knees when you twist to each side.
Photograph by fizkes
Similar to the other stretches here, this move lengthens contracted low back muscles.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands to rest either behind your knees or right below your kneecaps. Slowly bring both knees toward your chest, using your hands to gently pull your knees. Hold here 20 to 30 seconds, then return to starting position.
This common yoga posture gently stretches the muscles of the low back, which are likely contracted if you’re in pain.
Begin on your hands and knees on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Reach out directly in front of you, extending your arms and placing your palms flat on the floor. Slowly sit your hips back toward your heels, dropping your head and chest downward as your arms extend further. If this stretch is too much, place a pillow under your belly to prop yourself up a bit and lessen the stretch of the low back muscles. Stay here 20 to 30 seconds or even longer.
The Pelvic Tilt
When you're suffering from lower-back pain, you might feel as if your entire pelvic area is immovable. This stretch can help you start to bring some movement back to this area gently.
Begin by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Try to relax your low back, keeping it in a neutral position (which means you should feel a slight curve in your low back if you place the top of your hand under your back). Turn "on" your core muscles and then flatten your low back against the floor by slightly tilting your pelvis upward. Repeat 12 to 15 times.
This dynamic movement moves the low back muscles in two directions, building on Child’s Pose to help lengthen contracted muscles and soothe soreness.
Begin on your hands and knees on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Your spine should be parallel to the ground in this position. Then, round your back, stretching your mid-back between your shoulder blades - similar to how a cat stretches by rounding its back. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax and let your stomach fall downward as you gently arch your low back and hold here for 5 seconds. Repeat these movements for 30 seconds or longer.
First published: 5 Aug 2019