Do you experience back pain when sitting or standing? Bending or lifting? Or maybe walking or running? There are many causes, but thankfully most types of back pain can be relieved and treated with the right advice, the right treatment and these essential stretches.
While stretching is important, sometimes it can only provide temporary relief and a more significant issue may be causing the pain, such as poor core stability, leg or pelvic muscle imbalance, spinal strength or damage to spinal structures like a disc or nerve root. I always recommend discussing any kind of pain – acute, persistent or chronic – that is not relieved with stretching with a physiotherapist.
This is one of my favourite exercises and absolutely essential for anyone who sits at a desk all day. Over time, it will help relieve tightness or discomfort developed from sitting for long periods of time, as well as pain across the lower back felt when lifting, reaching and bending.
Lying on your front, place your hands underneath your shoulders in a push up position. Relax your lower back and buttocks and slowly push your upper body backwards, trying to keep your pelvis on the floor and curve the lower back. If you can make it to the top and straighten your arms, slowly breathe out and sag the lower back. Only push up to the tightness and not into the pain. Slowly lower, pause and repeat for three sets of 10, twice a day.
If you cannot get on the floor or your floor environment is not ideal, do the same movement from a standing position. This version is a little harder to perform.
This is another essential stretch to relieve a stiff lower back. You may feel a click or gentle pop when performing this exercise. This is normal and should give some relief.
Lying on your back, bend one knee up and hold it with your opposite hand. Slowly move your leg over to that side until you feel tightness in your lower back. Again, don’t stretch all the way into the pain, only the tightness. You may also feel a good stretch in your gluteal muscles. Every time you breathe out, try to relax your lower back and let it rotate.
Hold this stretch for 45-60 seconds at a time. Repeat both sides twice, then do the tighter side one more time.
If you are like me and have a particularly curvy lower back (excessive lordotic curve), you may experience pain from walking or standing for long periods, or even running. Most people who feel pain from these positions will have tight muscles in other areas or weak inner core, hamstring and glute muscles. All of which can be addressed in a rehab program with a physiotherapist.
Starting with your right leg out in front of you, bend your left leg out to the side. Reach forward with your hand and grab your foot. Make sure your knee is bent right up to you ribs to start with – don’t have your leg out straight.
With your right arm, pull your body towards your thigh to feel a slight stretch in the lower back. Push your left knee downwards and rotate your body away so you are now 90° to your right leg. This will increase the stretch to the left of your lower back.
Try to increase the stretch (as much as you can tolerate) by straightening your right leg, but keep your ribs on your thigh. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get your leg straight, as long as you’re getting a stretch in the lower back. Remember, this is a lower back stretch and not a hamstring stretch! Repeat with the other side and do this twice each side, then one more time on your tighter side.
Stretching your hip flexors, gluteals, hamstrings and quadriceps regularly is also very important in the management of back pain.