We're all familiar with that painful feeling you get from sore and aching muscles in your lower back, right?
It can make any day on site feel like a major struggle.
And this pain just gets worse and worse during the day as your muscles tighten up even more.
Which can leave you feeling really uncomfortable and in a lot of pain after a long and gruelling shift.
But what if I told you that you can reduce this pain by stretching your back out regularly?
That by taking just a few minutes every couple of hours to stretch, you can work in more comfort and feel less pain in the evenings?
Well you can, and in this article I'm going to introduce you to 5 lower back stretches that will help you to achieve this.
These stretches can be done at home and on site, and are all really easy to do.
And once you get into the habit of doing them, you'll never want to give them up!
The Benefits of Stretching Your Back Every Day
Stretching your back regularly will bring you so many health benefits, such as:
- It will increase the flexibility of your spine (and body in general), which will make moving easier and less painful.
- It relaxes your muscles which will improve your posture, as tight muscles force your body into hunched positions.
- It will improve your circulation, which allows your damaged muscles to get the oxygen and nutrients they need to heal, repair and stay healthy.
- It will loosen and lengthen your tight muscles, which lowers the risk of injury at work.
- And finally, it feels great! That instant release of tension you get from stretching is really satisfying.
Not bad for such a simple activity, right?
So read on, and I'll show you 5 helpful lower back stretches with videos to get you started.
1. Cat/Cow Stretch
The cat/cow stretch is a great one for mobilising the lower back and relieving tension.
And it's also great for increasing the flexibility of your spine.
Which will increase your range of movement, and lessen the amount of pain you feel in your back.
- Get into position on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your palms under your shoulders.
- Before you begin make sure your spine is in a neutral 'tabletop' position.
- As you inhale, engage your core muscles, dip your pelvis while lifting the shoulders and finally looking upwards (creating a 'u' shape in your spine).
- As you exhale, lift the pelvis up first, round the shoulders, and finally bring your chin to your chest and look down (creating an 'n' shape in your spine).
- Keep going with this sequence alongside your breath for 5-10 rounds.
2. Extended Child's Pose
This stretch is fantastic.
It's used during yoga and pilates classes as a restful pose, and the word restful sums it up perfectly.
Because not only will it give your back a nice, restorative stretch.
It'll leave you feeling at ease and relaxed too.
- Get into an all fours position, with your knees under your hips, but youir palms further forward, slightly in front of your head.
- Now widen your knees and bring the toes of your feet together (creating a 'v' shape).
- Keeping your palms on the floor, sit your body back so that your bum is resting on your heels.
- Now rest your head down onto the floor/mat.
- Breathe in and out naturally and relax into the stretch.
- You'll find you sink deeper into the stretch with each exhale.
- It's up to you how long you want to hold this position for, but try between 30-60 seconds to begin with and see how you feel.
- Be careful to rise out of this position slowly once finished.
3. Knee to Chest Stretch
This exercise helps to strengthen and relax your glutes, as well as your lower back.
And this is important.
Because when your lower back is tight, your glutes take on a lot of the strain and can became tight and painful too.
And when you glutes are tight they can't function as they need to.
Which results in your lower back having to carry more of the load, leaving you under even more strain (and in even more pain!).
So keep those glutes working well with the knee to chest stretch.
- Lie down flat on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the floor.
- Keeping your right foot on the floor, place both hands on your left knee and bring it in towards your chest. Hold for 10 seconds.
- Return to starting position. Now do the same but with your right knee, keeping your left foot on the floor.
- Repeat 3-5 times for each side.
- If this is too easy you can increase the stretch by straightening the leg you are not holding out in front of you, rather than keeping your knee bent.
4. Knee Roll Twist Stretch
This one is great for getting some movement into your lower back, and also for stretching out your abdominal muscles.
Stretching your abs keeps them strong and healthy, which helps them to provide support for your lower back.
And this support will help you to maintain a better posture too.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor close to your buttocks, and your arms out to the side at a 90 degree angle from your body.
- Your knees and feet should be touching.
- Inhale, and as you exhale lower your knees over to one side, while turning your head to face away to the opposite side.
- Make sure to keep both shoulders on the floor as you do this.
- Relax and hold this pose for 3 deep breaths.
- Exhale and return to the starting position.
- Repeat this process but lowering your knees to the other side this time.
- Do this stretch 3 times for each side.
5. Piriformis Stretch
Now Piriformis might sound like a Greek centre-half who plays for Leicester City.
But it is actually the name of a prominent muscle in the buttock area.
And people with back pain like us need to be very aware of it.
Because this area houses your sciatic nerve endings.
And when your piriformis muscle is tight or strained, it can pinch on these sciatic nerves.
Which will leave you with not just lower back pain, but sciatic pain shooting down your legs too.
So keep your piriformis muscle fully stretched and healthy with this one.
- Lie down flat on your back with your knees bent and both feet on the floor.
- Keeping your left leg where it is, cross your right leg over your left knee by placing your ankle on it.
- Now keeping your back on the floor, lift your left foot off the ground.
- Reach through with both hands and hold onto the back of your left hamstring.
- Slowly and carefully pull your hamstring towards your body until you feel a stretch in your glutes.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds then release.
- Repeat this process with the other leg (left leg crossed over right knee).
- Stretch 2-3 times on each side.
Things to Remember While Stretching
All 5 of these stretches are pretty easy to do, but you need to make sure you are doing them right.
Because while stretching can work wonders for your back pain, it can also cause you damage if you do it incorrectly.
So while doing each of the stretches above, keep the following in mind:
- Don't stretch cold muscles - Make sure you warm up first (during the work day this shouldn't be a problem!).
- Don't overstretch - Listen to your body and stop immediately if you feel pain or discomfort.
- Don't bounce - Move into each stretch slowly and hold once you get there.
- Stretch both sides of the body equally - this prevents muscle imbalances forming.
- Breathe normally - Holding your breath while stretching will cause your muscles to tense up rather than relax.
Get these things right and you are on the road to less back pain and greater flexibility.
And Don't Just Stretch Out Your Back
Stretching your back out regularly is a great way of reducing back pain.
And the exercises shown here will really help you.
However, if you want to get the maximum benefit from regular stretching then you need to be stretching out your whole body, not just your back.
This is because the body works as a whole.
And each part needs to be working well to avoid any compensating or imbalances developing.
So stiffness and tightness in other areas of the body can develop as a result of having lower back pain.
And conversely, tightness in other areas can mean the lower back doesn't get the support it needs and has to work harder than it needs to.
So alongside your lower back, it's also important to stretch out the following areas:
- Neck and shoulders - These areas hold a lot of tension when you have back pain, which can lead to a hunched posture. So stretch them out regularly.
- Hips and groin - Tightness in these areas limits your range of movement and forces your lower back to do more work. Keeping them stretched and loose gives your spine the support it needs.
- Glutes - Your backside becomes overworked and tight when your lower back is tense, and this just increase the load on your lower back. It's also important to keep your glutes loose to avoid sciatic pain.
- Hamstrings - Your hammies are likely to tighten up if you have back pain. In fact, tight hamstrings can be the cause of lower back pain. So it's vital to stretch yours out regularly.
Stretching your whole body out regularly will reduce the strain and increase support for your lower back, which will lessen your levels of pain and discomfort.
To help you get started I've created a free stretching guide that includes 9 simple stretches that cover all these areas, which you can access by clicking here.
Also, there are some great free video stretching routines online that you can follow on sites such as Fitness Blender.
One that I think is especially helpful as a full body stretch for people with lower back pain is the video below:
So don't limit yourself to only doing lower back stretches, give your whole body the full benefits of stretching too.
Your back will thank you for it.
I hope that you find these stretches useful, and that they help you to feel more flexible, mobile and in less pain on a daily basis.
Personally I couldn't survive without regular stretching.
It's been a massive game changer for me, and has helped me to stay supple and relatively pain-free during my working day and beyond.
So give these stretches a try for yourself.
And remember to try and incorporate stretches for your whole body too once you've got the hang of the lower back ones.
After all, who doesn't want to feel less tense, less painful, looser, and more relaxed?
Enjoy the stretch!