Stretches for Lower Back Pain
Did you know that back pain is the leading cause of disability? Half of all Americans state that they have back pain each year, and 31 million Americans are experiencing back pain while you are reading this article.
Although low back pain is typically an acute condition, meaning that it lasts less than three months, reoccurrence can occur, and for some people, it becomes chronic. As such, low back pain is costly to our nation; we lose 264 million workdays annually and pay approximately $50 billion in healthcare costs. If we factor in the lost workdays, that figure jumps to about $100 billion.
If you're reading this because you don't know what else to do, well, read on to learn more about how a regular stretching routine may help improve your back pain and what the seven best stretches for lower back pain relief are.
Can Stretching Help Lower Back Pain?
Yes, stretching can help lower back pain!
Many factors can contribute to lower back pain. Our backs are comprised of many bones, ligaments, tendons, joints, and muscles.
The anatomy of the back is so complex, various injuries can occur. For example, sprained muscle(s), or a disk can slip. Other factors can contribute too, such as carrying too much weight, arthritis, and poor posture. Also, medical conditions can cause back pain.
The rationale between stretching is multifaceted. According to Jonas J. Gopez, MD, of Spine-Health, benefits include:
- Reducing the risk of disability that may be associated with back pain
- Improve range of motion
- Improving mobility of the back
- Reducing tension in the muscles that support the back
How Often Should You Stretch Your Lower Back?
In general, most stretches can be performed daily. However, there are some caveats to this recommendation.
Back pain that is persistent or severe should be discussed with a physician. Those with chronic back pain should develop an exercise routine with expert supervision; the goal is to achieve a functional goal.
According to Harvard Health, "Any exercise program should be customized to meet your needs and introduced gradually. One golden rule about any exercise program is to stop if it becomes painful. Exercise is meant to help, not hurt. If you were exercising before an episode of back pain and then had to slow down or stop for a while because of the pain, don't resume exercising at the same level as before the episode."
Excercise and Back Pain: What You Should Know Before You Start
It may seem like a good idea to "stretch it out" – but that may not always be the case.
When shouldn't you exercise with back pain? What should you know before you start doing stretches for back pain? And what's a good rule of thumb when it comes to exercise and back pain?
Most back pain is not serious. In fact, Ted Dreisinger, Ph.D., a trustee of McKenzie Institute International, an advocacy group for those with musculoskeletal conditions, states, "A small number of cases – less than 1% - are caused by something more serious, such as a fracture, spinal tumor, or systemic disease. These require medical attention."
If your back pain is persistent or keeps you up at night, or if it includes leg pain, you should seek medical attention. Otherwise, likely staying active is safe.
Another good rule to abide by? If it hurts, don't do it! Too often, we push ourselves to the point of pain, because if it hurts while we stretch or exercise, it must be good for us. This is generally not true.
And if your back pain doesn't improve with exercise and self-care remedies, you should seek an expert opinion.
Seven Stretches for the Lower Back Pain
So, now you're ready to stretch! Here are some great stretches for your lower back that you can try that will surely have you feeling great!
Also called cobra in yoga, the prone press-up stretches the lumbar region of the back. It facilitates the restoration of the normal curvature of the spine.
In order to do a prone press-up, you should:
- Lie flat on your stomach on the floor, a blanket, or a yoga mat.
- Place your forearms below your chest, back extended, palms flat on the floor, and prop yourself up.
- While inhaling, straighten the elbows and extend the back. Press the hips into the floor.
- Do not lock the elbows but continue to lift until a gentle stretch is felt in the lower back.
- Hold the press-up for three to five seconds.
- While exhaling, return to the floor.
- Perform this stretch ten times.
The pelvic tilt strengthens not only the muscles of the lower back but also the abdomen and hips.
In order to perform a pelvic tilt, you should:
- Lie flat on your back on the floor, a blanket, or a yoga mat.
- Place your feet flat with your knees bent.
- While exhaling, press the small of the back into the floor.
- Hold for a count of 15 seconds; you should keep the pelvis and lower back muscles flexed.
- While inhaling, return to the start position.
- Perform this stretch ten times.