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Stretching for Low Back Pain: Relieve Tension and Prevent Injury

Understanding the Causes of Low Back Pain

Low back pain can stem from various factors, including tight muscles, weak core muscles, and even injuries to the bones and muscles surrounding the lower back. When certain muscles, such as the glutes, hips, and hamstrings, become tight, they can exert pressure on the spine, leading to discomfort and even stress fractures of the spine and pelevis. Conversely, weak core muscles can also contribute to low back pain, as other larger muscles compensate for the lack of support and stability.

Everyday activities like sitting at a desk, driving, or even lying down can contribute to muscle tightness in the lower back. Prolonged periods of inactivity without proper stretching and strengthening can cause the muscles to shorten, leading to pain and discomfort. Additionally, certain health issues, such as endometriosis, can also manifest as low back pain.

The Benefits of Stretching for Low Back Pain

Stretching is a powerful tool for relieving tension and promoting flexibility in the lower back. By incorporating regular stretching exercises into your routine, you can strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, enhance mobility, and alleviate pain. Whether you choose yoga poses or other targeted stretches, these exercises can help release tightness, improve circulation, and prevent further injury. As you do these stretches, relax and don't rush.


Woman in bright room in child's pose

Stretches to Relieve Low Back Pain

Child's Pose Start by kneeling down on the floor, with your shins and tops of your feet touching the ground. Bend at your hips, moving your hands forward and your buttocks backward. Slowly extend your arms in front of you until your stomach rests on your thighs, palms on the floor. Focus on your breathing and hold the pose for five deep breaths. Let your body relax into this stretch.


Cat-Cow

Begin on all fours, with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. Moving slowly, inhale as you lift your head up towards the ceiling, arching your back and moving your stomach towards the ground. Exhale as you pull your chin towards your chest, rounding your back towards the ceiling. Repeat this flowing movement for one minute, focusing on the breath.

Tip: Cat-Cow helps improve spinal flexibility and relieves tension in the back.


Wide Leg Seated Forward Fold

Sit with your legs open wide, flex your feet, and engage your quadriceps. Slowly fold forward, reaching your arms in front of you as far as possible. Relax your shoulders and feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Hold the position for 2 seconds, breathing deeply. Don't force this movement. In the beginning, you might not feel like you are stretching very far, but you will notice a subtle increase of range from the first rep to the tenth.  A significant improvement may be noticed over a two week period of stretching.

Tip: This stretch targets the inner thighs and helps release tension in the lower back.


Seated Forward Fold

Bring both legs together and straighten them in front of you while sitting. Reach your arms out to the sides and up, then slowly fold forward, flexing your feet and engaging your quadriceps. Relax your shoulders and allow your body to soften into the stretch, feeling the gentle elongation of the hamstrings. Hold for 2 seconds performing 10 repetitions.


Spinal Twist

Sit with both legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee, crossing it over your left leg. Begin twisting to your right, placing your right hand on the floor behind you. Use your left arm to support the twist by placing it on the outside of your right leg. Don't allow your upper body to collapse as you hold this twist. Hold for about 2 seconds while engaging your abs/obliques, then switch to the other side.  Perform 10 repetitions.


Revolved Head to Knee Pose

Start in a seated straddle position with both legs extended out to the sides. Bend your left knee and place your left foot on the inside of your right thigh. Reach your right arm down along your right leg and extend your left arm towards the ceiling. Slowly lean towards the right to stretch the left side waist, reaching your left hand towards your right toes. Hold for a few breaths, then switch sides.


Seated Butterfly

Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, back straight. Bend your knees and bring your feet inwards until the soles of your feet touch. Hold your feet with your hands for support. Slowly lean forward, feeling the stretch in your hips. Hold the position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply.


Low Runner's Lunge

Start on your knees and bend your right knee, placing your right foot flat on the ground in front of you. Keep your left knee on the ground and gently lean into your front right leg, feeling the stretch in the left hip flexor and quadriceps. Focus on gently pushing your hips forward and down instead of just pushing down with your body. Place your fingertips on the ground on either side of your right foot and keep your gaze forward. Hold for 2 seconds, then repeat on the left side.  Perform 10 repetitions.


Lizard

Begin on all fours, with your hands and knees on the ground. Step your right foot forward in between your hands and bring both hands to the inside of your right foot. Wiggle your right foot out to the right, opening the right hip and letting the right knee fall to the side, resting on the outer edge of your right foot. Keep the left knee on the mat and rest the left foot on the mat. Push gently into your hips and hold. Switch sides and repeat.


Knees to Chest

Lie down on your back and bend your knees. Slowly bring your thighs towards your chest, wrapping your hands around your knees or shins. Pull your knees closer to your body and hold the position for 30 seconds. Relax and enjoy the stretch, focusing on your breath. Knees to Chest is a gentle stretch that releases tension in the lower back.


Figure Four

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your left foot off the mat, keeping the knee bent, and bring the leg towards your chest. Rotate your left leg outward, placing your left ankle on top of your right thigh. Gently pull your right thigh closer to your chest by placing your hands underneath the leg and pulling. Hold for 2 seconds, return the right foot to the floor and repeat 10 times before switching sides. Figure Four stretch targets the hip muscles and promotes flexibility in the lower back.


Keep Stretching!

Stretching exercises are an effective way to alleviate low back pain and prevent further injury. By incorporating these stretches into your routine, you can release tension, improve flexibility, and promote overall well-being. More specific stretches and lengthening exercises can be performed based off specific complaints or areas of tightness/weakness.  Remember to consult with your doctor or healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you're experiencing severe or chronic low back pain. Take control of your back health and enjoy the benefits of a pain-free and active lifestyle.

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