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I was playing with my son recently and threw out my back while we were wrestling. This wasn’t the first time this had happened, but it was the first time the pain was so intense I had a hard time even getting up from the floor.
As a single mother of a toddler, I don’t have the option of spending the day lying still and recovering. Instead, I continued to move through the pain. Inspired by my yoga practice, I engaged in some simple stretches that I thought might bring low back pain relief. This turned out to be a blessing. My recovery was much faster than in past years when I was suffering and didn’t let myself move at all.
How to use stretches for low back pain relief
Nearly everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives—studies suggest up to 80% of the population will end up suffering from some level of tightness, stiffness, and soreness. Whether the cause is sitting for too long, carrying your kids, or simply bending over to pick something up the wrong way, back pain happens. And it can range from annoying to completely debilitating. Either way, it can drain you physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Just as the causes of back pain are different, so are the ways to recovery. Intentional movement in the form of simple stretches for the low back and hips has been found by medical professionals to help provide immediate low back pain relief, as well as facilitate mobility and even prevent recurrence of the pain.
I have found the following stretches to be immensely helpful in counteracting tightness so that back pain robs me a little less of my life. However, we’re each unique in our experience of low back pain, so always check with your medical professional prior to beginning any stretching or exercise protocol.
5 stretches for low back pain relief
These stretches can also be done each morning to help loosen your low back muscles. Pay careful attention to the sensations that you experience when doing these exercises. Do not force your body into any position that’s painful.
Start by lying on your back with your arms in a T-shape. Bring your legs into a figure 4 shape by placing your right ankle against your left thigh. Lean your right knee away from you to create external rotation in your hip. Keep both shoulder blades on the floor and start to slowly rock your legs from side to side. Be careful not to arch your low back. Repeat on the other side.
Thread the Needle
Begin in Tabletop position with your shoulders over your wrists and your knees under your hips. Start to slide your right arm underneath your chest to the left and bring your right shoulder and side of your head to the floor. Remain here for a few breaths before coming out. (I usually get a glorious crack when doing this exercise.) Repeat on the other side.
Seated Figure 4
We’re coming back to those deep hip rotators here by doing a Figure-4 shape in a seated position. Bend your knees and bring your feet on the floor. You can prop yourself up with your arms or, if you need to, against a wall. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh and bring your left heel as close as is comfortable to your seat. Breathe here. Repeat on the other side.
Seated hip flexor and quad stretch
Start with your legs in a 90/90 position by bending your knees at a 90-degree angle so your right shin and left thigh are both parallel to the short side of the mat. Tuck your pelvis under so you are not in an anterior tilt and then walk your hands behind you and away from your glutes as you lean back. You can either stay on your hands or come down on to your forearms. You can bring blocks beneath your forearms to help you find a middle ground that’s comfortable for you. Repeat on the other side. This is one of my favorite stretches to do when I’ve been sitting for too long.
Cat and Cow on forearms
I like doing Cat and Cow on forearms because it helps get your entire spine involved which can create a better and more comprehensive stretch for low back pain relief. Start in Tabletop and come onto your elbows, aligning them underneath your shoulders. Bring your chest forward as you come into a slight backbend (spinal extension).
From here, press your forearms into the ground and round through your spine (spinal flexion). Do 8-10 rounds.
Repeat these stretches for low back pain as often as needed, preferably every day, even after your pain subsides as a preventative measure.
About our contributor
Brittany Bryden is a yoga and movement teacher whose aim is to help others feel better in their minds and bodies. She has been a yoga teacher for seven years and a student for much longer. To her, yoga is the self-exploration of our authentic selves. She has found the true source of self-care, both physically and mentally, on her mat, and she considers it a gift to share this with her students. You can follow her on Instagram @bbryden and practice along with her on YouTube.