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Top 8 Stretches to Relieve Back Pain

Top 8 Stretches to Relieve Back Pain​

If you’re experiencing back pain try one or more of these eight stretches to alleviate the pain you’re experiencing. Also consider speaking with a doctor if the pain is ongoing or especially acute.

* Upper Back Exercises

** Lower Back Exercises

*** Good for both

  • Child’s Pose***:
      • Start on the ground on all fours. Then move your big toes to touch and spread your knees as far apart as you can then sit your butt to your feet. 
      • Sit up while extending your arms up to the ceiling, and then hinge at the waist, dropping your upper body forward between your legs, keeping your arms above your head.
      • Let your forehead touch the floor, your shoulders spread and your butt back on your feet.
      • Hold this for at least 15 seconds.
  • Cat-Cow Stretch***:
      • Start on all fours with your head in a neutral position, with your arms directly below your shoulders and your legs directly below your hips
      • Inhale and tuck your pelvis and round out the middle of your back, then bring your belly button towards your spine and relax your neck, dropping your head
      • Hold this position for 3-5 seconds, exhale and then return to a neutral spine position. This is the “cat” position”
      • Following this turn your face to the ceiling, allowing your back to move towards the floor. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds before returning to a neutral spine position. This is the “cow” position
  • Knee to Chest Stretch**:
      • Lay with your back on the floor. Bend either leg and bring it to your chest. Work to keep your spine lengthened and your tailbone on the floor.
      • Hold your leg there for 1-3 minutes and then release. Repeat with the other leg. Complete this sequence 3 times through. 
  • Seated Spinal Twist**:
      • Sit on the ground with both of your legs extended out in front of you. 
      • Bend your right knee and place your right foot to the outside of your left thigh. Then bend your left knee and place your left foot near your right thigh.
      •  Lift your arms up, keeping your palms placed together, then starting with the base of your spine, twist to the right side, placing your right side behind you for support.
      • Put your left arm around your right knee as if you are hugging it, or bring your upper left arm to the outside of your right knee.
      • Hold this pose for 1 minute and then repeat on the other side. 
  • Piriformis Stretch**:
      • Lie on your back with both of your knees bent, with your feet flat on the floor.
      • Place your right ankle on the base of your left thigh and grab behind your left thigh, pulling towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your right butt area
      • Hold this position for 1-3 minutes and then repeat on the opposite leg
  • Butterfly*:
      • Place palms on opposite shoulders and bring your elbows together to touch
      • Hold this for 5 seconds and release. Perform this 3-5 times
  • Chair Rotation*:
      • Sit sideways in a chair with the side opposite of the one you want to stretch facing the back of the chair
      • Keeping your legs stationary, twist your torso towards the chair, reaching for the back of chair with your arms
      • Hold your body there using your arms to deepen the stretch 
      • Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side
  • Overhead Arm Reach*:
    • Sit in a chair, facing forward with both feet on the floor
    • Extend your arm above your head and reach to the left, bending your torso until you feel the stretch in your latissimus dorsi muscle and shoulder, then return to a neutral position
    • Repeat this 5 times on each arm
 
Here’s some tips for doing these stretches properly:
 

You can do these stretches once or twice a day. But if the pain seems to get worse, or you’re feeling very sore, take a day off from stretching.

As you go through these stretches, take your time and play close attention to your breathing. Use your breath as a guide to make sure you don’t strain or overdo it. You should be able to breathe comfortably and smoothly throughout each pose or stretch.

Sometimes, depending on the intensity of the pain, it’s worth speaking with a medical professional before engaging in these stretches. These stretches really isolate the core muscles in your back, and too much concentrated stretching can actually be harmful for your back if you have a serious (undiagnosed) injury. So be mindful that you may want to speak with your doctor before diving into these stretches too seriously.

For those stretches where you sit or lie on the ground, it might be worthwhile to do these on a yoga mat or carpet or other soft surface, so as to alleviate pressure on your back while you engage in the stretches.

In case you’re looking for more stretches, here’s 4 more that you can try:

  • Pelvic Tilt
    • Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
    • Engage your abdominal muscles as you flatten your back against the floor.
    • Breathe normally, holding this position for up to 10 seconds.
    • Release and take a few deep breaths to relax.
    • Do 1 to 3 sets of 3 to 5 repetitions.
  • Sphinx Stretch
    • Lie on your stomach with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your hands extended in front, palms facing down.
    • Set your feet slightly apart. It’s okay for your big toes to touch.
    • Gently engage your lower back, buttocks, and thighs as you lift your head and chest.
    • Stay strong in your lower back and abdominals, breathing deeply.
    • Press your pelvis into the floor.
    • Gaze straight ahead or gently close your eyes.
    • Hold this pose for 1 to 3 minutes.
  • Wall Stretch
    • Stand with the right side of the body facing a wall.
    • Bend the right arm at the elbow and place the forearm against the wall. The upper arm should be completely straight so that the elbow forms a 90-degree angle.
    • Gently take a step forward with the right foot and twist to the left, allowing the right shoulder and upper back to stretch.
    • Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
    • Repeat the stretch several times on both sides.
  • Trunk Rotation
    • Lie on the back with the knees bent and the feet flat.
    • Gently rotate the knees to the right, keeping them bent.
    • Hold this position for a few seconds.
    • Return the knees to the center.
    • Repeat the stretch several times on both sides.

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