6 Essential Stretches to Reduce Back Pain

Lower back pain can have many causes, including having a tight or weak back, ab or core muscles; muscle sprains or strains; or a herniated disc. Here is a stretching program that you can use to reduce back pain and prevent back injuries.

Partial Crunch/Pelvic Tilt Exercise

The pelvic tilt is generally the first exercise that is recommended if you're recovering from back pain as well as to help develop spinal stabilization.

How to Do the Partial Crunch

  1. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. As you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles and press the small of your back into the floor.
  3. Lift your head and shoulders slightly up from the floor as you reach toward your feet with your fingertips.
  4. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds.
  5. Relax and return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Cat-Cow Stretch

This simple stretch, sometimes called the cat-cow stretch, gently stretches the muscles of the low back and helps to realign the spine and pelvis. It's particularly helpful to ease the pain of a low back strain. Here's how to do it correctly.

How to Do the Cat-Cow Stretch

  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles (imaging that you're trying to pull your belly button toward your spine).
  3. Slowly round your back, pushing it up toward the ceiling.
  4. Allow your head to drop forward and curl your pelvis under.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch in your back.
  6. Return to the starting position.
  7. Raise your head up and let your pelvis fall forward as your belly reaches down toward the floor.
  8. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  9. Repeat about 5 to 10 times.

Prone Back Extension

The prone back extension is a slightly more advanced and intense stretch for your back. Here's how to perform it safely.

How to Do the Prone Back Extension

  1. Begin in a face-down position on the floor.
  2. Slowly lift your torso up; place your elbows under your shoulders and your hands firmly on the ground. Your lower back will be slightly arched.
  3. Push into the ground and slowly straighten your elbows to increase the extension in your lower back. Go only as far as comfortable, and stop if you experience any pain. You should feel a comfortable, gentle stretch.
  4. Hold the position for 15 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat 5 to 8 times.

Hip Opener and Lower Back Stretch

This is a stretch that opens the hips and stretches the lower back. This exercise also stretches the muscles of the core, hips, groin, and lower back.

How to Do the Hip Opener and Lower Back Stretch

  1. Begin in a forward lunge position, and drop your left knee to the ground.
  2. Place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee.
  3. Press your right elbow gently into your right knee and twist your torso to the left.
  4. Reach your left arm behind you until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and right groin.
  5. Hold the stretch for about 20 to 30 seconds. Release and repeat on the other leg. Remember to keep your forward knee over or behind your ankle, not in front of it.

Modify this stretch based on your anatomy, flexibility, and limitations.

Spinal Twist Stretch

The spinal twist stretch needs to be done slowly and carefully. To prevent yourself from overstretching, allow your knees to fall only as far as comfortable—never force your knees to the ground.

You will naturally increase your range of motion in this stretch over time. Here's how to safely perform the spinal twist stretch.

How to Do the Spinal Twist Stretch

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Slowly let your knees fall toward the floor until a gentle stretch is felt in your spine.
  3. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the starting position.
  4. Next, allow your knees to slowly fall to the other side until a gentle stretch is felt.
  5. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat several times on each side.

Try the low lunge twist stretch as an alternative.

Knees-to-Chest Stretch

Bringing both of your knees into your chest is a simple way to release back tension and gently stretch your hamstrings. This simple spinal flexion movement is a great way to end a back stretching routine or workout.

How to Do the Knees to Chest Back Flexion Stretch

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Slowly bring your knees toward your chest and gently grasp your legs just below the kneecap.
  3. Hold this position for 20 seconds and return to the starting position.
  4. Rest a few seconds and repeat the stretch several times.
Was this page helpful?