women and men doing back stretches for back pain relief

The 8 Best Stretches for Back Pain Relief

Back pain is like the world’s worst friend. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, distracts you at work, and makes it difficult (if not impossible) to enjoy your hobbies. Unfortunately, back pain is a common companion. According to the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown, nearly 65 million Americans reported a recent occurrence of an achy or painful back. Additionally, eight percent of adults suffer from chronic back pain. While solutions for back pain come in many forms, one tried-and-true option is to perform stretches to help back pain.

Of course, there are caveats. Stretching won’t do much against certain pain-inducing conditions, like a bulging disk, osteoporosis, or serious spinal injuries, to name a few. However, if tight or overworked muscles are causing you back pain, good stretches for lower back pain can help relieve that tension. Before performing stretches to help back pain, consult with your doctor to ensure your pain isn’t due to a more serious condition.

With that in mind, grab a yoga mat or towel, find a peaceful corner of your home or gym, put on some enjoyable music, and get ready to stretch. Here are the eight best stretches for back pain.

1. Cat/Cow Stretch

The cat/cow stretch is a wonderful way to begin your stretching practice. This gentle stretch will warm up your back and help you begin to unwind as you gradually let the worries of the day slip from your mind.

Works:

  • Erector spinae
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Triceps
  • Serratus anterior
  • Gluteus maximus

How to do it:

Begin on your hands and knees on your mat. Place your hands shoulder-width and your knees hip-width apart. Take a deep breath and arch your back for the cow portion of the stretch. Tilt your head back and press your shoulder blades together. Transition into the cat portion of the stretch by rounding your back. Press your chin toward your chest, round your shoulders, and tuck in your tailbone. Move slowly back and forth through the stretch.

2. Child’s Pose

One of the most popular stretches in yoga practice, child’s pose, is a great stretch for upper back pain. If you hold a lot of tension in your neck and shoulders, sink into this relaxing pose for 30 to 60 seconds (or as long as you want). Child’s pose is also a great stretch to return to at the end of your practice.

Works:

  • Rotator cuffs
  • Spinal extensors
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Hamstrings

How to do it:

Start on your hands and knees on your mat. Position your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Slowly, push your hips back toward your heels. You can choose to spread your arms out wider as you sink your chest toward the mat. Let your head drop forward. The farther you sit back, the more of a stretch you’ll feel in your shoulders and upper back. You can also choose to spread your knees farther apart so you can sink deeper into the stretch.

3. Two-Knee Spinal Twist

Looking for one of the best stretches for lower back pain? You’ve found it. Don’t be surprised if you hear a few small pops when you perform the two-knee spinal twist.

Works:

  • Erector spinae
  • Rectus abdominis
  • Trapezius
  • Pectoralis major

How to do it:

Begin on your back on the mat. Spread your arms so that you make a T. Bend your knees and lift your feet off the mat. The starting position should look like you are sitting in an invisible chair. Slowly and with control, let your knees drop to one side of your body. If the knee closest to the ground doesn’t touch, that’s okay. Don’t force it. After a breath, bring your knees back to the center and let them drop to the other side of your body. Repeat a slow back and forth twist. To get a deeper stretch, you can use your opposite arm to press your knees closer to the ground gently.

4. Seated Spinal Twist

Another back stretch that might produce a few pops but feels oh-so-good is the seated spinal twist. Like all stretches that include the spine, this stretch should be performed slowly and gently. Never rush into a back stretch or push beyond what feels comfortable.

Works:

  • Erector spinae
  • Serratus anterior
  • Rhomboids
  • Pectoralis major
  • Psoas

How to do it:

Begin in a seated position on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend one leg, keeping this foot pressed into the mat and the other extended out. Sitting up tall, twist toward the bent knee placing the opposite elbow on the outside of the bent knee to help facilitate the stretch. Turn your head in the direction of the twist. Place your other hand on the mat behind you to brace your weight. If you can’t get your elbow to the outside of your knee, clasp your knee with your hand and gently pull yourself into the twist. Take three long breaths, then repeat the move on the other side of your body.

5. Standing Side Stretch

A great standing stretch for lower back pain, the standing side stretch is one you can do almost anywhere and at any time, including in the office or while you wait on hold. This stretch can also release tension in tight hips.

Works:

  • Quadratus lumborum
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • Serratus anterior
  • Oblique

How to do it:

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Raise one arm in the air and gently bend away from that arm. Do not bend your knees. Try to feel the stretch from the hip through your ribs on the side of the raised arm. You can keep the opposite arm dangling at your side or push it across your body to get a deeper stretch. Keep both feet on the ground. Hold for three seconds, then repeat the stretch on the other side.

6. Cobra Pose

The cobra pose is a gentle, back-bending stretch that can strengthen your spine. It can relieve tension in your back and feels great after an extra tough ab workout. However, if you experience any pain when performing this compression stretch, skip it and move on to the next option.

Works:

  • Erector Spinae
  • Triceps
  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Serratus anterior

How to do it:

Begin on your belly on the mat. Place your hands on the mat, palms down, just under your chest on each side of your body. Slowly, press your hands into the ground and push up so that your head and chest rise from the mat. Keep lifting your chest until it is fully off the mat. Make sure your stomach remains in contact with the mat. Look forward or slightly up. Hold for three seconds, feeling a nice curve in your upper spine, before lowering yourself back to the ground.

7. Downward Facing Dog

One of the most popular yoga poses, downward facing dog is another good stretch for lower back pain. It also stretches tight hamstrings, which may be contributing to your pain. Take as much time in downward facing dog as you need. Add a calf stretch while you’re in this restful pose.

Works:

  • Hamstrings
  • Deltoids
  • Gluteus maximus
  • Triceps
  • Quadriceps

How to do it:

Being in a push-up position on your mat, with palms on the mat and arms straight. Slowly, push your hips up and back while keeping your feet planted on the mat. Straighten your arms and tuck your chin toward your chest. Push your hips back until you begin to feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings. Do not try to force your legs to straighten if they don’t want to. Hold the pose for several slow breaths. To add a calf stretch, slowly drop one heel toward the mat. Lift and then repeat with the opposite heel.

8. Knees-to-Chest

Another beautiful and gentle stretch, the knees-to-chest is a pose you may want to spend extra time in because it feels so good. It’s also a great option to end your stretch practice for the day. As with the downward facing dog, spend as much time as you like in this pose as you finish your moving meditation.

Works:

  • Hips
  • Muscles of the lumbar spine

How to do it:

Start on your back on your mat, with knees bent and feet on the ground. Lift your feet and gently tuck your knees into your chest. Wrap your arms around your shins to deepen the stretch. Hold for as long as you like. You may also want to rock gently back and forth or side to side to massage sore back muscles.

Add More Stretching to Your Routine

The muscles of your body are connected, and tight muscles in one area can trigger a chain reaction of pain in other areas of the body. For example, tight chest muscles (your pectorals) can pull your shoulders into a slouch and round your upper back. Similarly, tight hips and/or hamstrings can tilt your pelvis, resulting in low back strain. Performing good stretches for lower back pain is a great start to working through tight back muscles, but don’t stop there. By stretching other tight muscles throughout your body, you may be able to relieve your back pain even more.

Signing up for yoga and other mobility group classes can help you learn how to stretch to relieve lower back pain and teach you more stretches to add to your weekly routine.

Stretching Exercises for Back Pain

Another great way to alleviate back pain and prevent it from returning is to build up your back muscles. Exercises like bent-over rows, Supermen, and deadlifts can specifically target the muscles of your back. You’ll also want to strengthen your glutes and core to support a strong and stable spine. There are many exercises to work the glutes, but some of the best include weighted squats, lunges, and deadlifts. To strengthen your core, consider signing up for a Pilates class or other core-centric group fitness class. You may also want to invest in a personal trainer for a customized fitness routine designed to help you get rid of your pain.

Make Stretching Part of Your Workout Routine

Don’t wait for back pain to rear its ugly head before you begin stretching. After all, as your grandmother always said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Consider adding a dynamic warmup before each workout and then performing a few additional stretches as part of your cooldown. The increased flexibility and coordination are worth it all on their own, plus you may also notice less back pain.

The less pain you feel, the more likely you are to stick to your fitness routine, so give these best stretches for back pain a try today. And, if you want to find a supportive gym that offers yoga as well as many different exciting group fitness classes, look for an EōS Fitness near you.

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