A woman smiling while stretching out her arms and back

Five Stretches to Prevent and Relieve Lower Back Pain


Written by fitness expert Chris. Last updated:

Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments that affect approximately 31 million Americans per year. Surprisingly, it is one of the leading causes of disability and affects up to 80% of individuals at one point or another. (Castillo) There are many causes for lower back pain as the lower back is comprised of muscles, nerves, bones, joints and ligaments. This pain is often different for each individual and may depend on the individual’s history and type and severity of pain experienced. Pain may be experienced by an individual directly after certain activities, after an injury, or as a result of a chronic condition. Since the bottom of the spine supports a lot of the body’s weight, damage or disruption to this area can cause pain in other parts of the body.

Gently stretching the muscles of the lower torso is an excellent way to immediately treat and work to prevent lower back pain. Pain can be present in many parts of the body, such as the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen. In fact, specific exercises and poses can help to strengthen the lower back muscles and provide support to prevent painful symptoms.

Regular stretching helps to protect your back by increasing its strength and flexibility and preventing damage. Before beginning any routine of stretching, it is important to warm up with light activity for ten to fifteen minutes to warm up your muscles. While stretching, the rule of thumb is stretch your muscles to the point where you can feel it without being in pain then holding for thirty seconds at a time.

Cobra Stretch

Lay on your stomach with your legs fully extended with your arms holding up your body. Push up so as to stretch the abdominal and lower back muscles.

Knee to Chest

 Lay flat on your back with your toes pointed upward then bend one leg and bring your knee to your chest. This helps to stretch the lower back and rear muscles.

Lying Knee Twist

Lay on your back with your legs extended straight out then bend a knee up and over the side of your body. Once in this position, hold the pose as it stretches the paraspinal muscles and strengthens the abdomen.

Piriformis Seated Stretch

Sit with your back straight and then cross one leg over the other by placing one foot by your hip on the opposite side. Stretch by holding your hands on your knees and gently pushing to directly stretch the piriformis muscle that is often the source of throbbing pain and sciatica.

Yoga Cat Pose: Kneel on your hands and legs and then stretch your lower back muscles and exhaling as you arch your back. As you inhale, tighten your core muscles and round your back.

In a special health report from the Harvard Health Publications by Harvard Medical School, “an exercise program that is designed to tone your back and core muscles can help you heal from a bout of back pain and help to prevent it from occurring again.” (Harvard Publications)

In order to prevent painful symptoms from occurring or causing distress, a combination of stretches can be used to target specific muscles. The lower back muscles and supportive muscles of the torso and legs can help to bear weight more evenly, thus preventing lower back pain. Stretching can help relieve some of the pain that chronic back pain sufferers experience on a regular basis or help to tone the muscles to support the bones and nerves in the area

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