We rely on the muscles in our lower back a lot. Walking, sitting up or down, and simply moving about all require your lower back muscles. Just as using your lower back muscles is common, so is lower back pain. Everyone at some point in their life struggles with it, whether acute or chronic.
What lower back pain feels like
It hurts, that’s for sure. But, there are different varieties of lower back pain.
- Lowerback Aches – Strained muscles feel tight and sore. If the pain also includes pulsing and tingling sensations or feels hot it may be an irritated nerve root as opposed to a strain.
- Localized, Focused Pain – Lower back pain is focused on not only the lower back but can also be felt in the waist/hips and buttocks. While less common, a condition called sciatica can allow pain to travel through the legs as far as a sufferer’s feet.
- Painful Flare-ups – Moving or assuming different positions that tax strained muscles bring on quick, often sharp lower back pain. While there are positions that can provide relief, flare-ups again occur when mimicing the movements that rely on the strained muscles.
Stretching for lower back pain relief
Back pain can be debilitating, especially when simply moving brings on quick, unexpected, painful flare-ups. But, as those who have dealt with chronic lower back pain will tell you, stretching is a great way to find relief not only in the short term, but also as a preventative measure.
Today we’ll introduce you to three stretches that can help with lower back pain.
For all of these stretching exercises you will want to have a flat area with plenty of room around you. The first and second stretches of the three require nothing else. The third and final stretch leverages a yoga wheel. Our favorite is the Chirp Wheel+ (Plexus was the company’s former name) but there are many yoga wheels to choose from that work just fine.
Before moving any further, it’s important that we note that before taking on any exercise regiment, especially when suffering from back pain or another condition, always consult with your physician first.
Stretches for lower back pain relief
Before starting any of these stretches prepare the area you will exercise in. It’s best if you can eliminate as many distractions as possible. Silence your cell phone and find a place where you won’t be interrupted. If you can strech in a quiet, relaxing environment where you can focus on how your body feels you will get the most out of it.
Clear anything from where you’ve chosen to stretch. If you usually exercise on a yoga or exercise mat place it on the floor before starting. Be sure to have some water handy, too.
#1 Press-up Back Extensions
Best for: Easing tight lower back pain
Perform when: At any level where exercise is comfortable
This simple exercise is a great starting point to stretch out a tight lower back. It’s easy, requires nothing but a bit of time and virtually anyone can do it.
Step-by-Step: Press-up Back Extensions
- Start by laying flat on your stomach with your legs together.
- Bend your elbows and position your hand directly below your shoulders.
- Push up with your hands, lifting your head and shoulders without lifting your lower body.
- Hold the position, optionally resting on your elbows, for several seconds if comfortable.
- Gently return to the starting position.
This is a great, easy-to-master lower back stretch that anyone can do. Over time, as your muscles stretch and recover, you will be able to hold the positon longer.
#2 Bird Dog
Difficulty: Low to Medium
Best for: Strengthening lower back muscles
Perform when: Feeling from no to medium intensity back pain
Bird Dog is a yoga pose which can help build up lower back muscles. It’s great for building muscle memory for stabilizing the lower back when moving arms and legs. It’s also great for your abs, too.
Step-by-Step: Bird Dog
- Start on all fours with your knees bent at 90 degrees, flat on the ground.
- While keeping your hips and shoulders level, straighten one leg and opposite arm so they are level with the ground.
- Hold the position for 5 to 10 seconds.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat, alternating the leg-and-arm pair you use.
If the Bird Dog pose is challenging, start by only doing one leg. Then, do the opposite arm, and continue until you have used each limb. Master Bird Dog with one limb, working up to the full Bird Dog pose with opposing limbs.
#3 Massaging Roll with a Yoga Wheel
Difficulty: Medium to High
Best for: Preventative stretching
Perform when: Experiencing low or no back pain
This is definitely the most advanced of the three. It isn’t necessarily complicated, but even introducing a yoga wheel ups the ante a little. We recommend this pose as a preventative measure.
Do note that if you’ve never used a yoga wheel before that you may experience discomfort when you start. This is normal. But, absolutely avoid this stretch if experiencing anything more than mild discomfort until you’ve become comfortable with it and how it makes your back feel.
Step-by-Step: Massaging Roll with a Yoga Wheel
- To begin, sit straight up with your knees bent.
- Still sitting straight up, position the yoga wheel against your back.
- Reach back with your hands and place them on each side of the wheel for support.
- Gently roll backwards, allowing your weight and the wheel to massage your back.
- Only roll back as far as you are comfortable.
- Continue back and forth slowly, stretching your lower back muscles around your spine
Some perform the massaging roll with a Swiss ball as opposed to a yoga wheel. While it definitely works, do note that a Swiss ball provides far less stability which could cause you to use lower back muscles to prevent lateral movement.
Mastered this stretch? Enjoying it? You want to delve further into yoga and are comfortable with this wheel massaging stretch look up how to do a pigeon pose with a yoga wheel. It’s much more advanced, but something you can work toward.
Stretches to avoid
While some stretches, like the ones above, can help work pain away, there are plenty of exercises that can exacerbate lower back pain. Just like we have three exercises to recommend, we also have three that you should absolutely avoid.
- Leg Lifts – Leg lifts can be great for strengthening your core but aren’t recommended when experiencing lower back pain. The exercise puts a lot of demand on the lower back. When lower back muscles are weakened, leg lifts can do more harm than good to a sore back.
- Sit-ups – Sit-ups are great for strengthening abdominal muscles but horrible when lower back muscles are in duress. Sit-ups put strain on the discs in your spine and can also put unwarranted stress on the lower back.
- Standing Toe Touches – When experiencing back paint contemplating toe touches might sounds like torture. That’s because it is! Standing toe touches can overstretch lower back muscles as well as strain spinal ligaments and discs.
Feel good and do more
There’s nothing worse than being sidelined by lower back pain. Whichever exercise or exercises you choose, take care of your lower back.