21 Stretches to Relieve Back Pain
Although back pain is something we don’t think about very often, it’s an issue that impacts millions of people around the globe every day.
It can be a minor pain in some area of the back, but it can also be excruciating pain throughout the whole spine.
Nevertheless, it can definitely have a major impact on everyday life – from normal walking to doing chores and even getting dressed.
But, doing just a few simple stretching exercises every day can change all that. For that reason, I’ve made a list of the 21 best stretches for lower back pain:
A fairly easy exercise that helps your spine discs to stretch out and align in a straight way. And the best part is that you do it while laying down! The exercise is done in 3 simple ways:
- Lay down on your back
- Bring your thighs to our chest and catch your outer foot area with your palms, while keeping your hands on the inner part of your legs. Keep this position for around 30 seconds.
- While in this position, you can roll gently to the left and right side to massage your lower back
Back pain is often caused by lack of strength in the abdominal muscles, which is why it’s important to stretch the muscles in this area. The Runner’s Lunge exercise stretches the hip flexors, quadriceps, and abdominal muscles and is done in the following way:
- Kneel down with your hands touching the floor in front of you. Stretch one of your legs back with your knee as support (touching the floor).
- Place your other leg outside of your arms (while you’re holding them on the floor) as if you were kneeling with that one leg.
- Press down your hips until you feel stretching in your front hip area.
- Keep doing this for 30 seconds for each leg
Downward facing dog
This exercise does wonders for your hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, and arms. It makes them stronger and alleviates any stiffness you feel in those areas. It’s also very simple to do:
- Bend down and touch the ground with your palms, with your body forming a reverse V shape.
- Keep your legs as close as possible
- Stay in this pose for 30 seconds in a few series.
Back pain and hip pain often come hand in hand. While this stretch exercise doesn’t focus on the back area, but rather the hip area, it can help keep your hip muscles strong and vital, and with it, reduce any potential back pain caused by the hip area. Following is an explanation on how to do the Hip Flexor stretching:
- Go down on one knee as if you were proposing to someone (a good exercise for the guys out there)
- Stretch out your hip on the leg that you’re kneeling on, your lower back going forward while your higher back area leaning back
- Straighten your back in the initial “proposal” pose while lifting one of your arms as high as possible. This will extend your spine and alleviate the pressure on your spinal discs.
The Sphinx Pose
If you’re not into the overly complicated stretching poses, The Sphinx is ideal for you. This exercise helps your body open up your chest which will make breathing easier, but it also makes your lower back more flexible and opens up your hips to give relief to any pressure in these areas. All you have to do is the following:
- Lay down on your stomach
- Lift your upper body by placing your elbows on the ground, parallel to your chest
- Stretch your shoulders as high up as you can while your elbows are still on the ground
- Hold this pose for around a minute
Cow Face Legs
The name might confuse you, but the pose is not confusing to do at all. Because lower back pain and hip pain often come hand in hand, it’s good to stretch both to avoid any one of these causing pain to the other one.
- Sit down on your ground and bend your right leg
- Bend your left knee and place your bent right knee on it (your feet should touch the ground)
- Take deep breaths for 30 seconds and then switch the position of your legs
As its name suggests, this pose is a child’s play to do. It relaxes the lower back muscles while stretching the spine, improving your overall mobility and it’s done in the following way:
- Get down on all fours
- Sit with your butt on your feet
- Stretch out your hands in front of you as far forward as you can so you can feel a stretch in your back
- Do this pose in 5 series of 10 seconds
Figure 4 Twist
If you ask most people, stretching is the easiest to do while laying down, and this pose is done exactly like that. What it does is that it reduces tension in the hip area, improving your balance and giving your body the support it needs in the lower part of it, which will reduce the pressure in the upper part of your body, specifically the back. It’s done in the following 4 steps:
- Lay down on your back and bend your legs while placing your feet on the ground
- Place one of your legs on the ground – hips on the ground, right ankle on top of the left knee
- Hold your arms in a cactus position
- Stay like this for 30 seconds each side
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
One of the easiest exercises you can do to stretch your back hip muscles, back muscles, shoulders and arms to alleviate any pressure and bring them in the right, healthy position. While it does so much for a lot of your muscles, it’s very simple to do:
- Spread your legs while standing, toes facing forward
- Bend down and brings your best as close as you can to your knees while touching the ground with your hands (don’t bend your knees during this step!)
- Once you feel stretching in your back and hip area, hold that position for 30 seconds
- Go straight up slowly to allow your spine to align properly
The hamstrings are one crucial group of muscles responsible for supporting your legs and spine. They not only connect your legs to your upper body but also flex the knee joints and adduct the leg, which is why it’s crucial to keep them in the best shape possible. The Lizard Lunge is the exercise that stretches these muscles the most, helping you get relief from lower back pain caused by improper functioning of the hamstring muscles. It’s done in the following way:
- Lay down on your stomach with your toes touching the ground
- Lift your body while your elbows are touching the ground (your whole body should be supported solely by your elbows and toes)
- Bend your right leg and bring it outside of your right hand, with your knee as high above your back as possible and your toes slightly facing outside
- Start peeling your foot from the ground starting from the inner side towards the outer until you feel a stretch in your hip
- Take 5 deep breaths and then switch the legs
A major factor in back pain are the hips, and one of the muscle groups responsible for the proper movement of in the upper legs are the adductor muscles. Thanks to them, you’re able to spread and close your legs without putting much pressure on the hip joints.
- Stretch your legs as far apart as you can while standing up, toes facing slightly outwards
- Place your hands on your inner thighs and squat slightly as if you’re going to sit
- Press onto your thighs until you feel a stretch and keep that position for 30 seconds
Legs up the wall
While it’s something we remember doing as a child, or even by accident, this is a stretch that does wonders for the back. It helps to release all the lactic acid you have built up in your legs and stretch the hamstrings too. And, as we mentioned previously, by stretching the hamstrings, you reduce the probability of experiencing lower back pain. All you need to do for this is the following:
- Lay down on the ground, bed, or anywhere close to a wall
- Lift your legs up on the wall, with your butt as close as possible to the wall
- Stay in this pose for as long as you’re comfortable
Knees to Chest
No matter if you’re in the mood for active exercises while standing up, or passive ones while laying down, this stretch will meet your needs. It can be done both ways, and it helps stretch out your lower back and relax your spinal discs. It has only one step in it:
- As the name suggests, bring your knees to your chest while holding them with your hands and pressing gently
- Switch each leg every 10 seconds for 10 series
- (optional) If you’re laying down, you can do it with both legs at the same time. If you’re doing this, hold your legs for 20 seconds and repeat around 5 times.
It’s not important to do the stretches in the right way physically, but it’s also important to breathe the right way. This stretch teaches you how to inhale and exhale properly to maximize the results you get while stretching:
- Go down on all four
- Inhale while raising your head up, at the same time bringing your pelvis down as close to the ground as you can
- Exhale while bending your back as high as possible and drop your head down
- Stay in each position for 10 seconds and repeat several times
The Triangle Pose
It’s very important to keep your spine active and moving on every side as much as possible. This pose will promote healthy spine movement that you don’t usually do, but will help keep it healthier and stronger.
- Spread out your legs while standing
- Place a small object in front of your right leg close to the height of your knee and place your right hand on it to support your upper body
- Stretch out your left arm high while keeping the lower part of your body facing forward and your shoulders slightly twisted to one side
- Switch on the other side and repeat a few times
The Partial Crunch / Pelvic Tilt
This exercise isn’t only good to stretch out your back, but it also helps alleviate back pain. By doing it, you will be able to stabilize your spine and align your discs in a straight position, giving them space and strength to support your body.
- Lay down on your back and bend your knees while your feet are on the ground
- Place your arms on the side of your body slightly above the ground
- Lift up your upper body and head off the floor as you’re reaching your feet with your hands
- Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 to 10 times
Supine Figure 4
This is one of the best exercises you can do to release your lower back and reduce hip pain by stretching your glutes, piriformis, and the lower back.
- Lay on your back and bend your knees
- Bend your right knee and place the right ankle above the left knee. Loop your right hand through your legs and make a hand lock behind your left thigh.
- While your head and shoulders are still on the ground, draw the left thigh towards you.
- When you feel a stretch in your outer thigh, keep that position for 30 seconds and then switch to the other leg
Every exercise done by sitting is simpler to do, and the seated twist is one of the easier ones of its type. There are 3 simple steps for doing it, but you will instantly feel relief in your back and glutes
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your feet on the ground.
- Take your left heel and draw it below your butt where it touches the sit bone and cross your right leg over your left one (your right foot should be close to your left outer thigh)
- Use your left hand to support yourself and the right hand to hold your outer left thigh and pull until you twist
- Straighten up and look either straight or over your right shoulder
- Hold for 30 seconds then switch to the other side and repeat 5 to 10 times
Bound Ankle Pose
Another excellent exercise for your hips and hamstring muscles that allow your back to rest and release pressure in it. It also aligns your hips, which will further help your posture and ultimately, relief of the pressure in your lower back.
- Sit down on the ground and join together your heels, bringing them close to your pubic bone
- Straighten up and place your arms behind you, next to your outer hips
- Rock your body forward and transfer your arms in front of you to support your upper body if needed
- Keep stretching as far forward as you can, while keeping your back straight
- Take deep breaths a few times, then straighten up and repeat the process a few times
Upward Forward Bend
Everyone has done this stretch at least once in their lifetime, if not at home, in PE classes for sure. But what we weren’t aware of while doing it in primary school is that it helps stretch out your spine and hamstring muscles, which helps towards better posture and less stress being placed on your spinal discs. The exercise is as simple as it gets. All you have to do is the following:
- Stand up and join your legs together
- Try to touch your toes without bending your legs and back
Two Knee Twist
Although this one seems very easy to do at first glance, you should be careful not to do this exercise too fast, or you might risk damaging your back. But, because it’s focused completely on the back, it’s one of the best stretches for lower back pain. You can do it in the following way:
- Lay down on your back and stretch out your arms on your side at shoulder height
- Bring both your knees to your chest and drop your legs to one side
- Keep your upper back on the ground and your lower back twisted towards your legs
- Hold for 5 seconds and switch your legs to the other side
- Repeat around 10 times
There are some cases where back pain is more severe for a few simple stretches to help with it, and in those cases, a physician’s attention is needed, and unavoidable.
But in most other cases, these simple stretches can bring such a drastic change in your life and help you find relief from any type of back pain – both lower and upper.