When trying to manage low back pain, people often discount the many benefits of simple stretching to help relieve pain. You want your stretches to stay moderate in intensity to achieve pain relief without worsening symptoms. You should never push yourself through heavy pain because you can make your symptoms worse.
I recommend performing a short 5 to 15 minute warm up to increase blood flow, which can help improve tissue extensibility. A brisk walk around the neighborhood or a quick spin on your stationary bike can help reduce the risk of injuring yourself further by overly stretching cold tissue.
Five stretches to try:
- Posterior hip
Your glutes and piriformis have a close proximity to your lumbar spine, so stretching these out can help the spine move more naturally. By lying on your back, pull a single or double knee to your chest to get the job done. You will be stretching some of your low back muscles as well. You can also cross one leg over the other while sitting and push forward to stretch your glutes.
- Hip flexors
Considering these muscles are attached to the anterior surface of the lumbar spine, tightness here can directly affect your lower back pain. A runner’s stretch in the lunge position will work, but be careful not to overdo this or you make your back pain worse. Keep it right, and keep it light! You could choose to perform this stretch in a standing lunge or a kneeling lunge, depending on how it feels.
If your hamstrings are tight, this muscle will pull on your pelvis, which creates a bit of a tug o’ war with your parapsinals. Many people stretch their hamstrings by reaching down to touch their toes, but you can also use a strap around your foot to pull your leg up while lying on your back. This stretch can be a bit uncomfortable since the hamstrings are a large group of muscles, but it will be worth your time.
Even though your calves are not lumbar adjacent, they share a myofascial pull with the hamstrings. They are also required to support your weight all day long. A simple calf-stretch using a wedge or the edge of a step can create a stretch all the way up to the back of your leg. This can help reduce your back pain and help you get a little pep back in your step!
- Your back
You have to be very careful when stretching your back because it is the most direct stretch of all that we discussed. You are trying to push your back into a reasonable amount of extension. The best way to stretch your back is by lying on your stomach while pushing up on your elbows. This is often referred to as a cobra stretch in yoga. The more advanced and flexible people can try a full cobra by keeping your arms completely straight, but make sure you increase your range gradually in order to work up to this.
Back in Action
Touro’s Back in Action Center provides comprehensive physical and occupational therapy services to adolescent, adult, and geriatric patients, as well as case management for patients with orthopedic diagnoses, therapeutic wellness and women’s health. Click here to learn more.
Touro Back in Action
1525 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone number: (504) 897-8157
Fax number: (504) 897-7041
Robbie Banta, PT, DPT received his Doctor of Physical Therapy from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. He has more than 5 years of experience in physical therapy.