Do you suffer from chronic back pain? Did you sustain a recent injury on the tennis court or football field? Is your back still feeling the effects from a recent auto accident? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re familiar with the debilitating effects of persistent back pain.
Between maintaining proper posture, receiving massages, and visiting a chiropractor, you’ve taken a lot of initiative in trying to heal your back. And while these things certainly help alleviate pain, you might be missing a key piece of the recovery puzzle: stretching.
Why You Should Stretch
Your back is at the core of all your body’s movements. It allows your legs to walk, your arms to reach, and your head to turn. So when the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your back experience pain and limitations, your whole body suffers.
Stretching helps combat these problems by:
- Strengthening the core and back muscles
- Realigning the musculoskeletal system
- Alleviating back and neck pain
- Increasing flexibility and range of motion
- Reducing the risk of future back injuries
General Tips for Stretching
If you’re interested in starting a stretching routine to alleviate your back pain, you’ll need to keep the follow guidelines in mind.
- Wear comfortable, non-binding clothes when you stretch.
- Stretch on a flat surface where you have enough room to move unimpeded.
- Opt for soft surfaces, like carpet or yoga mats, to stretch. Hardwood or tile floors may intensify your back pain.
- Move slowly and steadily as you stretch. Sudden movements or bouncing motions can actually tear muscles.
- Keep in mind that stretching should never feel painful. You should feel slight tightness, but never pain. If you feel pain when performing a stretch, stop immediately.
- Be patient. Most patients with persistent back pain only see progress after several weeks (or even months) of stretching. It takes time to increase your range of motion and flexibility, so don’t expect your back pain to disappear overnight.
7 Stretches to Help Alleviate Your Back Pain
For best results, perform the following stretches after you complete 30 minutes of physical activity, such as walking. You can also perform them right after you wake up in the morning to prevent back tension throughout the day.
1. Single Knee to Chest
Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your heels on the floor. Place both hands behind one knee, then pull the knee toward your chest. You should feel this stretch along your lower back and buttocks.
Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, then lower your leg and perform the same movement using your other knee. Repeat the stretch 3 times on each leg.
2. Double Knee to Chest
Begin in the same starting position as the single knee to chest stretch. Then pull both knees toward your chest. Perform the stretch three times, holding it for 20 seconds each time.
3. Prone Press Up
Lie on your stomach, bending your elbows and keeping your palms flat on the floor. Slowly lift your upper torso off the floor with your arms, keeping your hips in contact with the floor. As you press up, relax your back muscles. You’ll feel this stretch in your shoulders and lower back.
Lift as high as you can, and hold the position for 15 seconds. Perform 10 repetitions of this stretch.
4. Child’s Pose
Start on your hands and knees, then sit back so your buttocks rests on your heels. Then lengthen your spine by reaching your hands forward and lowering your head. This stretch targets the middle of your back.
Hold this pose for 15–30 seconds, and repeat the pose 3 times.
5. Lying Knee Twist
Lie on your back with your legs extended straight forward. Then bend the left knee up and lay it over the right side of your body. You’ll feel this stretch in your obliques, buttocks, and middle back.
Hold the position for 20 seconds, then perform the same movement on your right leg. Perform 3 repetitions of the stretch on each leg.
6. Trunk Rotation
Sit on the edge of a chair, keeping your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Slowly rotate your shoulders and twist your upper to one side, holding the chair as support, if necessary. You’ll feel this stretch all the way from your lower to upper back.
Hold this position for 20 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side. Perform 3 repetitions of this stretch.
7. Legs up the Wall
Sit where the wall and floor meet and scoot your buttocks all the way into the wall. Swing your feet up onto the wall, resting your heels and calves against the wall. Stretch your arms straight out to your side, and relax.
This pose helps the muscles in your lower back relax and also allows stagnant fluid in your feet and ankles to drain, preventing pain and soreness.
Hold this pose for 5–10 minutes at the end of your stretching routine.
By performing these stretches on a regular basis, you can put back pain behind you once and for all. But before you start any stretching or exercise routine, consult with a pain management doctor to ensure the routine is safe for your specific condition.