6 Stretches for Back Pain

  1. Cat/Cow – This exercise is great for spinal mobility. On all fours, start with a neutral spine (normal curvature) and slowly move between trunk flexion and trunk extension, arching the back and then rounding the other direction. Move slowly and do not push into pain. Do 10x
  2. 3-D Hamstring Stretch – I love a good hamstring stretch b/c the hamstrings have attachments to our pelvis, and the pelvis connects to the spine. If our hamstrings are tight, it will pull our pelvis into a posterior pelvic tilt, causing a flattening of the spine. Place one foot up on a step or stool, keep the spine in a neutral position, but lean forward, hinging at the hips until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings. Then turn side to side to change the stretch and get a stretch through the outside and inside of the hamstring muscle as well. Stretch for 20-30 sec, rest, and repeat.
  3. 3-D Hip Flexor Stretch – Your hip flexors are a group of muscles, and 1 specifically (iliacus) has its origin on the lumbar spine, while the others have origins on the pelvis. Both then can affect the position of the pelvis and spine, pulling it into excessive lumbar extension if it’s tight. To stretch the hip flexors, I like to do the opposite of the hamstrings – face away from a step or chair and put your foot up behind you. It would be wise to be located close to a wall for balance support. Keep back knee fairly straight (so you aren’t stretching the quadricep instead), and lean backward until a stretch is felt in the front of the hip. Then turn side to side to again get a greater stretch in all the muscle fibers.
  4. Child’s Pose – 3 directions. Sit on the floor with your legs underneath you, spread knees apart, and bring your abdomen towards the floor, stretching arms outwards in front of you. Then perform the same stretch but to each side. Hold each position 10-20 seconds and repeat.
  5. Prone Trunk Extension – Lay on the stomach if tolerated. If this is not tolerated b/c of back pain, don’t force it and try again when your pain has decreased some. You could also place a pillow under the abdomen and see if this gives you some relief and the ability to still get in the correct position. This alone may be enough of a stretch, helping you to achieve a neutral spine position if you’ve struggled with extension. If this feels ok, try propping up slowly on forearms as tolerated, and once this is not painful, you can slowly work to propping up on hands. You want to keep shoulders relaxed (don’t let them come up to your ears) and back as relaxed as possible. If you can’t do it without tightening up, go back to a previous position, or try again another day. Hold anywhere from 10 sec to a few minutes in length depending on tolerance level.
  6. Hooklying Trunk Rotation. – Lay on back with knees bent. Gently rotate knees side to side in a range of motion that is tolerated without significant pain. This can be a very small range of motion or it can be larger depending on how you’re feeling!

Check out a video of them all here!