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10 Stretches That Can Help With Back Pain

October 29, 2021

By Joshua Abrams, DO

Did you know that more than 65 million Americans experience back pain? That pain might be mild and pass on it its own or it could be chronic and have a serious impact on your quality of life. Many people immediately start thinking about medication or even surgery to address back pain. While those approaches might be necessary eventually, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about all of your options first.

In many cases, some simple at-home stretches can go a long way toward easing back pain. Learn about some of the most common causes of back pain and how to use stretch exercises for back pain by reading below.

What Back Conditions Can Stretches Help?

Generally, back pain can be caused by a number of different conditions. The pain may be the result of something as simple as a muscle or ligament strain. Maybe you lifted a heavy object and strained your back or have an injury that occurred while playing a sport. Other conditions, such as scoliosis, arthritis, sciatica and pregnancy, can cause back pain. 

Fortunately, stretching may be able to play a role in alleviating the back pain symptoms associated with these conditions. Before attempting stretching to relieve back pain, speak with your doctor to ensure doing so won’t aggravate your pain. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Benefits of Stretches for Back Pain

How can a stretch for lower back pain or upper back pain be beneficial? 

  • Decreased pain: Decreasing pain and discomfort is the main goal for many people who take up stretching. Research has shown that stretching can help increase the range of motion in the spine and relieve pain.
  • Improved posture: Bad posture can be a contributing factor to back pain. Slouching can cause your lower back, shoulders and neck to feel tense and stiff. Improving your posture through stretching can help you stand taller and relieve some of the discomfort you feel in your back.
  • Greater range of motion: When you think of stretching, you probably think of flexibility. Over time, flexibility does improve flexibility and range of motion. With a greater range of motion, you might find you can more easily participate in physical activities because you feel stronger. 
  • Protection from future injury: Ultimately, the more you stretch, the more you get out of it. If you maintain a regular stretching routine, you’ll get short-term relief from back pain while building the foundation for preventing future injury and discomfort.

6 Lower Back Pain Stretches

Some helpful stretches for low back pain include:

1. Knee to chest

The knee to chest stretch is one of the simplest lower back pain stretches. First, lay down on your back on the ground. Bring both knees to your chest one at a time, gently pulling your leg closer by clasping your hands under your knee. Hold this position for however long is comfortable. Then, repeat with the other leg.

2. Lunges

The kneeling lunge is another helpful stretch for low back pain. To start, kneel on the floor. Then, place one leg in front of you with your foot flat on the ground. Place your hands on the bent leg in front of you and gently lean forward. This movement will stretch the front of your back thigh and your hip muscles, which can play a role in back pain.

3. Piriformis stretch

The piriformis is a muscle located in the buttocks, near the hip joint. The sciatic nerve runs through this muscle, and both components can be involved in back pain. Stretch this muscle by lying flat on your back with your legs bent. Much like the knee to chest movement, pull one leg up to your chest, but pull that leg across your body toward the opposite shoulder.

4. Bridge pose

Like many stretches for low back pain, you begin the bridge pose by lying flat on your back on the floor. Pull your knees up, placing your feet flat on the ground about hip-width distance apart. Push your hips upward while keeping your shoulder blades on the ground. Either keep your arms at your side or interlace your fingers and hold them beneath your back on the floor.

5. Child’s pose

The child’s pose is another position commonly used in yoga classes. Begin this pose by kneeling on the floor. Place your toes together and your knees apart. Gently stretch forward with your arms in front of you, resting your belly on your thighs.

6. Figure four stretch

During this stretch, you’ll form a “four” with your legs. Lie on your back. Then, bend your left leg with your foot flat on the ground. Bring your right leg up, bending it to the left so your ankle touches your bent knee. Finally, lift your left leg so it’s horizontal in the air. Repeat with your other leg.

4 Stretches for Upper Back Pain

1. Neck rolls

These are some of the easiest upper back pain stretches. Sit with a straight back and relaxed shoulders. Drop your chin to your chest and rotate your head slowly in one direction until you get back to where you started. Complete a few circles in one direction before switching to the opposite direction.

2. Shoulder rolls

Start by sitting with a straight back and relax your shoulders. Next, shrug your shoulders up toward your ears and roll them forward. After a few rolls in this direction, roll your shoulders backward. This motion can help release tension in tight shoulder muscles.

3. Chest opener

Stand up and interlace your fingers behind your back. Hold your arms straight down as you look up and push your chest toward the ceiling. Gently lift your arms up behind you until they’re horizontal and hold this posture for 10 to 15 seconds at a time.

4. Cat-cow

These stretches are another option out of the yoga playbook. Start on your hands and knees while holding your spine in a neutral position. Allow your belly to drop while looking up — the cow part of the stretch. Shift to the cat posture by looking down and arching your back upward. Repeat this transition slowly a few more times.

Schedule an Appointment for Back Pain Today

Rest assured that back pain doesn’t have to be a regular part of your life. The team of experts at Desert Institute for Spine Care (DISC) is here to evaluate your symptoms and build a treatment plan that works for you. Contact us to connect with our team and start on the path to recovery.

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