There’s no escaping back pain. No matter what age we are, how active we keep or what our jobs entail, lower back pain can strike at any time and it’s always miserable. It can range from the minor twinge of a knotted muscle to something a lot more serious and excruciating. Thankfully, there are certain things we can do to help ward-off some of the injuries that lead to back pain.
With all our muscles, it’s a case of use it or lose it and by regularly giving your back a gentle stretch, you can give some of those muscles a little wake-up call. Stretching and moving frequently can not only prevent muscles from seizing-up over time, but can mean that when you go to do something a bit strenuous like swing a golf-club or weed a flowerbed, you’re less likely to feel sore for days after. Even if you’re already feeling sore, giving your back a good stretch can help relieve pain too.
Let’s take a look at 5 stretches that both feel really good and are also a great way to keep your lower back muscles limber. These require nothing more than some comfortable loose clothes and a soft floor. A carpet or exercise mat will do fine.
If you feel any pain when stretching, stop immediately. There are some things, like persistent pain, that a mere stretch just won’t sort out and you should see a professional straight away.
1. Cobra stretch
This one looks like it’s going to give your lower back a great stretch and, spoiler alert, it does.
Start by lying flat on your stomach with your legs extended. Your palms, forearms and elbows need to be flat to the floor. To start the stretch, push your body up off the floor by straightening your forearms. You should feel a stretch in your abdominal muscles and your lower back. Hold this pose for 10 seconds and release.
2. Cat-Cow stretch
Cat-Cow is a twofer in that it stretches both your upper and lower back. It’s a bit of a complicated one though.
Start on all fours with your back straight, knees directly under your hips and hands directly under your shoulders. Push your backside up towards the ceiling, arching your back and lifting your head up as you push your chest towards the floor. This is the cow part.
The cat bit is like the opposite of that. Dropping your head slowly, arch your back and push your shoulder blades away from you. Your back should be curved and look like that of an angry cat. This is good for the muscles in the upper back and neck. Repeat the cycle ten times.
3. Bridge pose
This is an easier one but no less beneficial.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Taking a big deep breath raise your hips as high up off the ground as you can, exhaling as you go. Again, repeat ten times.
4. Spinal twist
You can hurt yourself with this one if you overdo it so you need to be careful.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Just let your knees fall to you left—don’t force them, just let gravity do the work. You should feel a stretch and pull in your lower back. Hold for ten seconds, straighten out, and then repeat by letting your knees fall to the other side.
Repeat as many times as you like!
5. Knees to chest stretch
So many of our muscles are connected that a tightness in one part of the body can mean pain in another. Lower back pain can be caused by anything from the feet up and even something as minor as a tight hamstring can have knock-on effects.
The lower back and the abdominal muscles also work together to keep you upright and the stronger one is, the less work the other has to do. Since the abdominal muscles don’t tend to give as much trouble as the back, it stands to reason that strenghtening them can take the load off the back somewhat, thereby reducing the risk of problems.
A good method of combining a lower back stretch with a hamstring stretch and an abdominal strenghtening exercise is by bringing your knees up to your chest. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Breathe in and bring your knees up towards your chest, grabbing your legs just below the knee and exhaling as you go. Hold the position for ten seconds and exhale as you return to normal. Repeat ten times.
Although none of these stretches is necessarily a cure for lower back pain, if not overdone, they can certainly help in preventing it. They also may well provide some relief to anyone suffering from a sore back.