Lower Back Stretches program to reduce back pain

Back pain sucks! Sciatica sucks! Did you know that a simple daily program of lower back stretches can drastically reduce the pain from those and other back pain conditions? This simple solution can help you to lead a normal, active life.

Yup. I had both and I’ve learned how to improve my back health and I’m now in great shape with 70% less pain.

This certainly beats sitting around all day in agony and feeling helpless.

A large percentage of adults suffer from lower back pain (Lumbago) and in many cases it’s debilitating. If left alone, it can cause real issues with mobility, leading to excessive use of painkillers, alcohol and eventually depression (I’ve been there).

 

With just a few minutes each day and very little effort, you can prevent this!

We take it for granted!

It’s difficult to appreciate how much body weight that is supported by your lumbar region. We really take it for granted and this is especially the case when people are overweight. People get heavier, less mobile and more stress is placed on the lower spine and back muscles causing major problems that are difficult to reverse.

This can be avoided.

Your lower back is a vital part of your body and must be respected. It should be serviced just like a car to ensure it remains fully functional and supports you in a healthy, pain-free way.

You need to exercise it and release the tension on a daily basis to enable it to work at 100%.

I couldn’t do it anymore, so I took action.

After my L5-S1 Spinal Fusion surgery and years of suffering from Sciatica, I decided I had to make a change. I was tired of being a prisoner in my 35-year-old body.

With the help of my Biomechanics consultant, I compiled a targeted program of lower back stretches (Muscle & Spinal Stretches) that helped me to rectify the imbalance in my back.

If followed correctly, this will help you to improve the stability of your back and when combined with gentle exercise, can rapidly increase mobility and drastically reduce nerve pain.

The best part is that you can complete these stretches in just 8 minutes (Yup! No excuses).
 

Let’s get YOU Started: My Lower Back Stretches Program

My program of lower back stretches that I used to recover from my back surgery and reduce my Sciatica can be found below.

I have created an easy-to-follow, weekly program for your to follow.

Simply take each week (begin with week 1) and carry out the 5 lower back stretches in the once in the morning and once in the evening. This should take you just 18 minutes per day (8 minutes in the morning and 8 minutes in the evening). If you can spend longer, then great. You will benefit more!

Once you reach the end of the week, simply move onto the next week. After week 4, you then continue but you can mix and match the stretches. Just make sure you follow them in the same way and swap them up each week.

If followed correctly, you will start stretching your way to a more active, painless life. Trust me!

Lower Back Stretches Program Essentials (Please read)

For maximum benefit, you should carry out this program once in the morning and once in the evening.

You need to be dedicated. Your back pain will recover quicker if you apply the effort.

If you miss a session, then find 5-10 minutes during the day to catch up.

Please do not try to exceed your limits. Stretching should be a gentle, gradual process that helps your body to release tension without harming yourself.

If you feel any pain, stop immediately. If you feel slight discomfort then that should be ok. Stretching in new directions will cause some discomfort but that is part of gaining back your mobility.

You should also take the time to read my disclaimer here. I am not a medical practitioner. I am simply sharing what worked for me.

LOWER BACK STRETCHES FOR WEEK 1

1. Laying Reach Stretch

This exercise is a great starter for beginners who want to cure their back pain. It allows you to stretch whilst you relax and extend your upper and lower back with little very effort. This simple movement ensures minimum impact on your pain points.

Get into position:

Lay on a carpeted floor or yoga mat with your back against the floor. Get comfortable.

The Stretch:

1. Place your arms above your head and link your fingers.
2. Breath out and then reach up as high as you can. You should feel the stretch in both the lower lumbar region and in your upper back, around the shoulder blades.
3. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds.
4. Repeat 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Make sure you are lying on a soft service.
  • This exercise should take 1.5 minutes.

2. Seated Russian Twist Stretch

Before sitting on the floor make sure you have a yoga mat or cushion to ensure your coccyx is protected. The objective of this lower back stretch is to release tension in your lower back muscles and improve mobility.

Get into position:

Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Make sure your knees are bent and the bottoms of your feet touching the floor.

The Stretch:

  1. Place your arms up so the are crossed in front of you and lifted.
  2. Slowly twist to your right-hand side until you feel the stretch
  3. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and then return back to the middle.
  4. Repeat on the left side.
  5. Complete the exercise 8 times on each side.

Stretching Tips:

  • Roll slowly into the stretch. Be careful not to over-balance.
  • This stretch should take 1.5 minutes.

3. Toe Touch Stretch

This movement enables you to use your body weight to stretch your lower and upper back.

Get into position:

Stand upright with your feet together. Reach your arms up above your head and lock your hands.

The Stretch:

  1. Stretch upwards as high as you can towards the ceiling.
  2. Then, slowly bring you arms down in front of you. When you are level with your shoulders, start to bend at the hips. Continue down keeping your legs straight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings without pushing yourself. Don’t go any further than is comfortable.
  3. Hold the stretch for 8 seconds. You should feel a nice stretch in your hamstrings, lower and upper back.
  4. Once complete, go back up to the top.
  5. Repeat the exercise 5 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Take your time with this stretch. You want to gently place the tension on your hamstrings and lower back.
  • When holding the stretch at the bottom, try to stretch out further with your arms but don’t over-stretch your hamstrings to the point of pain.
  • This exercise should take 1.5 minutes.

4. Back Hang Stretch

The Back Hang is a very simple exercise that enables you to relax and let your weight do the work. The result is a lovely stretch down your hamstrings and lower back. I use this when I need to release tension quickly. 

Get into position:

Stand upright in the middle of the room with your feet shoulder width apart. Actually, you can do this anywhere. 

The Stretch:

  1. Keeping your legs straight, slowly bend at the waist allowing your arms to drop down in front of you.
  2. When you go as far as you can go comfortably, hang there.
  3. Hold this stretch for 7 seconds. Then return to the top.
  4. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Only stretch until you feel comfortable.
  • Do not bounce.
  • The objective is to release existing tension in your lower back and lengthen your hamstrings so they don’t create more tensions.
  • When you are comfortable, you can start going lower each time.
  • This exercise should take 2 minutes.

5. Pelvic Tilt Exercise

This Pelvic Tilt Roll is designed to release tension from excessive sitting. Over time, it will increase the mobility in your pelvic and lower back region. This exercise was invaluable to me after my spinal fusion surgery.

Get into position:

Lie on your back with a cushion or yoga mat under you for protection. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor a hips width apart. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin tucked in.

The Stretch:

  1. Gently flatten your low back into the floor and contract your stomach muscles.
  2. Now tilt your pelvis towards your heels until you feel a gentle arch in your lower back, feeling your back muscles contracting. Hold for 3 seconds and the return to the starting position.
  3. Repeat 15 times, tilting your pelvis back and forth in a slow rocking motion.

Stretching Tips:

  • Keep your deep abdominals working throughout.
  • Don’t press down through the neck, shoulders or feet.
  • Modification – Place one hand on your stomach and the other under your lower back to feel the correct muscles working.
  • This exercise should take 1.5 minutes.

LOWER BACK STRETCHES FOR WEEK 2

6. Back Extension Stretch

This movement is designed to open up the lower, middle and upper parts of the spine. This is also very safe and you are in full control of the stretch.

Get into position:

Lie on your stomach, and prop yourself on your elbows, lengthening your spine. Keep your shoulders back.

The Stretch:

  1. Keeping your neck long, arch your back up by pushing down on your hands.
  2. You should feel a gentle stretch in the stomach muscles as you arch backwards.
  3. Breathe and hold for 8 seconds before returning to a relaxed starting position.
  4. Repeat the exercise 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Don’t bend your neck backwards.
  • Keep your hips grounded.
  • This stretch should take maximum 2 minutes.

7. Single Knee Raise Stretch

This is a great stretch to target the lower back, glutes (bottom muscles) and hamstring. If done correctly, it should gradually release tension across the entire area.

Get into position:

Gently lower yourself onto the floor and lay flat on your back with your legs out straight and your head down on the floor.

The Stretch:

1. Bring your right knee up towards your chest until you feel the stretch in your lower back.
2. Hold this for 10 seconds and lower leg back to the floor.
3. Repeat 5 times.
4. Once you have finished on you right side, begin the stretch on your left.

Stretching Tips:

  • Make sure you are comfortable on the floor. Use a mat or towel if the floor is hard, cold or dirty.
  • To gain a deeper stretch, use your arms to pull you knee further to your chest.
  • You can also raise your head and pull your chin towards your chest to increase the stretch in your neck and upper back.
  • This stretch should take 1.5 minutes.

8. Cross-Legged Knee Raise Stretch

This stretch is designed to release the tension in your lower back muscles and give your neck a nice stretch too.

Get into position:

Lay on your back on the floor with you legs out straight. Make sure you are comfortable. Use a mat or towel if the surface is hard.

The Stretch:

1. Raise both knees up towards your chest. Once there, cross your legs.
2. Continue to pull your knees towards your chest.
3. Place your hands on your knees and pull your knees further towards your chest and hold. You should feel the stretch in your lower back.
4. Lift your head and push your chin toward your chest and between your knees. You should feel the stretch in your neck and middle back also.
5. Hold the stretch for 3 seconds and then relax.
6. Repeat 5 times and then cross your legs the other way and do it 5 times on that side also.

Stretching Tips:

  • Make sure this move is executed in a slow and smooth way.
  • Do not pull too hard on your knees. You are simply trying to create tension.
  • This stretch should take approximately 2 minutes.

9. Lying Knee Rolls

This exercise is designed to loosen, stretch and mobilise the lower spine. If you have a very stiff lower back then this is an ideal exercise but please roll slowly and in a controlled way.

Get into position:

Lie on your back on the floor and place a small flat cushion under your head. Slide your feet up towards your bottom so your knees are bent. Keep your upper body relaxed and your chin gently tucked into your chest.

The Stretch:

  1. Roll your knees to your left side, followed by your pelvis, keeping both shoulders on the floor.
  2. Hold the stretch for 3 seconds and return to the starting position.
  3. Repeat 20 times, alternating left to right.

Stretching Tips:

  • Only move as far as feels comfortable.
  • The more of these exercises your do, the looser your back will become and the greater the tension release.
  • You can position a pillow between your knees for extra comfort.

10. Knees-up Lower Back Squeeze

The knees-up squeeze helps you to stretch out your lower back in a safe and comfortable way. I love this stretch because you immediately feel the tension release when you’ve finished.

Get into position:

Gently sit down in the middle of the floor with your legs together and out in front of you. Your knees should be slightly bent. If you need to sit on a cushion or padded yoga mat for comfort, then do so. It’s important you protect where possible.

The Stretch:

  1. Exhale and pull your knees up towards your chest as high as possible using your hands. You should feel a stretch in your lower back.
  2. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds.
  3. Lower your legs straight down to the floor to finish the exercise and rest.
  4. Repeat the stretch 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Use a mat to make this exercise more comfortable.
  • To extend the stretch further, bend your head forward and tuck your chin into your knees.
  • This stretching routine should take 1.5 minutes.

LOWER BACK STRETCHES FOR WEEK 3

11. Twisting Crocodile Stretch

The crocodile twist stretch is designed to gently loosen up your lower vertebrae. This is a stretch can also be found in many Yoga classes.

Get into position:

Lay on a soft carpeted floor or yoga mat with your back against the floor. Get comfortable.

The Stretch:

1. Whilst keeping your right leg straight, pull your left leg up and place the bottom of your left foot on your right shin.
2. Now, place your arms out straight to either side.
3. Turn your head to face left and then roll your hips and left leg to the right. You will have your head and right knee facing in opposite directions. You should feel a stretch in your lower back.
4. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and return back to the middle.
5. Repeat 5 times on that side.
6. Change position so your right leg is on your left shin and then repeat the exercise on that side 5 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Make sure you role in a smooth and controlled motion.
  • Do not try to over-stretch. Maintain a comfortable position and stretch a little further as you become looser.
  • This stretch exercise should take around 2 minutes.

12. Kneeling Quad Stretch

This stretch is designed to release the tension in your quadricep muscles (thighs) and to rectify pelvic tilt that can lead to Lumbago and Sciatica problems. This stretch has played a key role in my recovery from spinal fusion surgery.

Get into position:

Kneel on the floor whilst leaning backwards with your hands resting on your heels behind you.

The Stretch:

1. Lean backwards and push your hips upwards off the ground. You should feel a stretch in your thigh muscles and in your lumbar region. Some of the weight should be on your arms for balance.
2. Hold the pose for 5 seconds then lower back down to the floor.
3. Repeat exercise 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Try to get a good stretch across your quads. This is a muscle group that is often the source of lower back pain because, if too tight, can cause pelvic tilt and sciatica.
  • This exercise should take around 2 minutes.

13. Side Bend Lower Back Stretch

The side bend is a simple lower back stretch that will help to release the tension of the muscles in the side and middle of your lower back. You can practice this stretch literally anywhere.

Get into position:

Stand upright with your hands by your side and tense your stomach muscles.

The Stretch:

  1. Slide your right-hand down your right side until you feel a stretch in your left side.
  2. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and slide back up.
  3. Repeat 9 more times.
  4. Once complete, repeat again on the left side 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Keep your deep abdominals working throughout.
  • Don’t press down through the neck, shoulders or feet.
  • Modification – Reach your arms above your head, placing your palms together. Stretch to the left and right but only as far as you feel the stretch. Not all the way down.
  • This stretch should take 1.5 minutes

14. Supine Hamstring Stretch

This is a great stretch if you suffer from Sciatica because it enables you to release tension in the lower back, buttock and upper leg (the hamstring) that surround the nerve.  This can deliver an immediate relief over a short period. I use this stretch on a daily basis to relieve my own sciatica.

Get into position:

Lay on your back on the floor. Use a yoga mat or carpet for comfort.

The Stretch:

1. Keeping your left leg on the floor, lift your right leg off the ground until you feel a stretch on your glutes (buttock) and your hamstring. Your right leg should be straight with your heel push downwards and toes pulled upwards.
2. When your leg is at the top hold the underneath of your leg to help maintain and gently push the stretch. Don’t hold the weight of your leg in your hands. You need to feel the stretch.
3. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and then lower your right leg back down.
4. Repeat 5 times on each leg.
5. Complete the same exercise on your opposite leg.

Stretching Tips:

  • Move your leg gently so you do not pull too much on your hamstring muscle.
  • To extend the stretch, you can use a towel underneath your foot. This will give you more leverage for a deeper stretch and make it easier on your neck.
  • To add an upper back or neck stretch you can lift your chin to your chest during the stretch.

15. Squat & Tuck Stretch

The squat & tuck will help you to stretch out your lower, neck and middle of your upper back in a quick and easy way. This is another exercise I love to carry out in the mornings because it loosens me up for the day ahead.

Get into position:

Stand with your hands by your side in the middle of the room.

The Stretch:

  1. Squat down as low as you can go, ideally, with your hands touching the floor.
  2. Tuck your chin into your chest. You should feel the stretch in your neck and middle of your back.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds and then return to the standing position.
  4. Repeat the exercise 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • If you can, hold the stretch for longer. The longer the stretch, the more benefit.
  • This exercise should take approximately 1.5 minutes.

LOWER BACK STRETCHES FOR WEEK 4

16. Swiss Ball Back Stretch

This exercise enables you to create a gentle stretch in the lumbar region whilst supporting your back in a very safe and comfortable way. You will need a Swiss Ball for this and I strongly recommend you buy one as this is another great piece of kit for improving flexibility and back strength. (Check out my back stretch equipment page for more information.)

Get into position:

Sit on the Swiss ball and get comfortable. Gain a feel for the ball and ensure you have balance. If you need to spread your arms out for balance or need to hold onto a chair on one side, then do so.

The Stretch:

1. Carefully roll down the Swiss ball so it finishes in the arch of your back.
2. Lean back carefully so your body is horizontal. You should also push up from the knees to maintain balance.
3. Raise your arms above your head and stretch backwards over the ball.
4. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds before rolling back up to sit on the ball.
5. Repeat 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Roll slowly into the stretch. Be careful not to over-balance.
  • This stretch should take approximately 1.5 minutes.

17. Hip Flexor Stretch

This exercise is designed to stretch your hip flexor muscles in your groin and your quadricep (thigh) muscle. These muscles can have a direct impact on your pelvic region and lower back if you don’t stretch. If the muscles shorten, they will cause your pelvis to tilt and the result is back pain and sciatica. I use this one on a daily basis.

Get into position:

Kneel on the floor on a yoga mat, cushion or towel doubled over. You are placing a lot of weight on your knee so make sure it is protected. You may also want to use a chair to balance on.

The Stretch:

1. Lift your left leg and place it bent out in front of you so you are balanced on our left foot and your right knee.
2. With you right-hand, pull your right foot up towards your bottom and lean forward. You should feel the stretch on your right thigh (the quadricep) and groin.
3. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and then release.
4. Repeat the exercise 10 times on each side.

Stretching Tips:

  • Try to maintain balance during the stretch If you can’t balance at the beginning just use a chair to make sure you stay in position.
  • This stretch should take 2 minutes.

18. Bottom to Heels Stretch

This is a very gentle lower back stretch that places you in full control of the movement. It is designed to gently open up the lumbar region and release tension in the lower back muscles.

Get into position:

Kneel on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Don’t over-arch your lower back. Keep your neck long, your shoulders back and don’t lock your elbows.

The Stretch:

  1. Place your arms out in front of you and then slowly push your bottom backwards. Place your head between your arms. You should feel a stretch in your lower back.
  2. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and return to the starting position.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Only stretch as far as feels comfortable.
  • The further your reach with your arms, the better the overall stretch up your back.
  • You will also be able to stretch the muscles in the middle of your back (Erector Spinae).
  • This stretch should take 2 minutes.

19. Rocking Lower Back Stretch

The rocking stretch is designed to stretch both lower and middle back using momentum to ensure a deeper stretch.

Get into position:

Sit down on a carpeted floor or yoga mat. Make sure your lower back and coccyx are cushioned and protected.

The Stretch:

1. Sit upright and pull you knees up to your chest.
2. Wrap your arms around your knees and lock your hands. It is important to maintain this form during the stretch.
3. Begin to gently rock back and forth whilst pulling your knees in. You should feel the stretch in your lower back.
4. Rock 10 times and then relax for 10 seconds.
5. Repeat 3 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Rock carefully. Focus on the stretch and maintaining form.
  • Keep your legs pulled in tight and your head tucked in.
  • This exercise should take 1.5 minutes.

20. Spine Roller Stretch

This stretch requires the aid of a ‘spine roller’. If you don’t have one then I strongly advise you to purchase one because they are a great tool for releasing tension in your back muscles and stretching your spine.

Get into position:

Carefully sit down on the floor. Position the foam roller behind your lower back.

The Stretch:

1. Gently lower yourself backwards towards the floor making sure the roller remains in place under the arch of your back.
2. When you are as low as you can possibly go, exhale then arch and stretch your back a little further over the roller with your arms up. You should feel a nice stretch.
3. Hold for 5 seconds and then relax.
4. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • To extend the stretch, raise your arms during the exercise for great leverage.
  • Keep your bottom on the floor.
  • Don’t bounce.
  • Your aim is to flex the curve of your spine around the roller to create the stretch.
  • You can use the roller to stretch your middle and upper back by moving it’s position further up your back.
  • This stretch should take 1.5 minutes.

LOWER BACK STRETCHES FOR WEEK 5

21. Twisting Wall Grab Stretch

 The Wall Grab is designed to gain a little extra leverage to stretch your lower back muscles which is perfect if they are particularly tight. The pressure of you hands against the wall will help you to hold the stretch.

Get into position:

Wash your hands first so you do not have any dirt on them (we don’t want you getting into trouble). Stand sideways next to an empty wall with your right shoulder 20cm away.

The Stretch:

1. Twist around to your right until you feel the stretch.
2. Place your hands on the wall to increase the stretch a little further. Make sure you are comfortable and don’t over-stretch to the point of pain.
3. Hold the pose for 5 seconds. Then return back to face the front in a relaxed position.
4. Repeat the exercise 10 times.
5. Swap sides and repeat on your left 10 more times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Once you are warmed up and are comfortable with the exercise you can use your hands to crawl further along the way.
  • This will help you to increase the stretch and loosen up your lower back muscles.
  • This exercise should take 2 minutes.

22. Hamstring Cross-Over Stretch

The Hamstring Cross-Over is a stretch designed to release tension in the back of your legs and lower back. People often get tight hamstrings when they sit for long periods of time in the office or in the car. This can cause the hamstrings to shorten which then pulls on the back muscles causing lower back pain and Sciatica.

Get into position:

Stand upright in the middle of the room in a loose and relaxed stance.

The Stretch:

  1. Cross your right leg over the left leg.
  2. Slowly lower yourself towards the floor keeping your left leg straight. Go down as far as you can until your feel the stretch. Use your hands to help you hang towards the floor.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds and return to the top.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Finally, change legs and stretch 10 times on that side too.

 

Stretching Tips:

  • Move slowly to ensure you stretch in a comfortable and controlled way.
  • Don’t bounce on this exercise.
  • Tense your stomach muscles for improved control.
  • This exercise should take approximately 3 minutes.

23. Reclining Pigeon Knee Pose

This strange looking stretch is a key exercise in my own battle with Sciatica. I use it to release immediate tension when I have been sitting for long periods of time. This is a deep stretch that really gets to the root of the problem and removes pain quickly.

Get into position:

Lower yourself on the floor onto a mat, towel or onto soft carpeted area. Get comfortable in a lying position on your back.

The Stretch:

  1. Bend both knees.
  2. Next, bring your right leg up and place your ankle on your leg knee.
  3. Lift your left leg up towards you and grasp your right thigh with your hands.
  4. Pull your legs towards you. You should feel a nice deep stretch in your right hamstring and sciatic nerve.
  5. You can also tuck your chin into your chest for a nice neck stretch.
  6. Hold for 5 seconds and then release. Do this 10 times.
  7. Repeat with the other leg 10 times.

Stretching Tips:

  • Move slowly to ensure you stretch in a comfortable and controlled way.
  • To increase the stretch you can use hands to pull your legs further towards your chest.
  • This exercise should take approximately 4 minutes.