Regardless of your age or exercise routine, you may be surprised to learn how certain stretches for back pain can positively affect your day-to-day life. The benefits of stretching are unbelievable, which is why many physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists advise patients to incorporate stretching into their daily schedule. This is also why considering a weekly yoga, pilates, or water aerobics class can improve your physical health considerably. Consistently stretching your neck, shoulders, back, and hips will undoubtedly show an increase in your mobility and pain relief. If you’re not sure what stretches to start with, here are five of our favorite stretches for back pain:
1. Seated Forward Bend
How To Do the Stretch: A seated forward bend begins with sitting on the floor with your legs extended in front you, and while attempting to keep your spine straight, lean forward with your hips. While reaching for the soles of your feet with your elbows fully extended, exhale slowly and deepen the pose by leaning the front of your torso towards your legs. Your lower stomach should be the first to touch your legs, followed by the ribs and then the chest. For beginners or those with sensitive backs, hold an elastic band around the sole of your foot and stretch your torso forward that direction. Hold this pose for 1 to 3 minutes, controlling your breathing for the entire duration. When exiting the pose, inhale and lift yourself up from the top of your torso first.
Benefits of this Stretch: The seated forward bend stretches the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. It also stimulates liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus, and is therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis.
2. Pigeon Pose
How To Do the Stretch: Another example of helpful stretches for back pain in yoga is the pigeon pose. Start the pigeon pose on your hands and knees, sliding your right knee down and next to your right hand. After this, slide your left leg back as far as your hips will allow. The most important factor of this stretch is to keep your hips square during the entire motion, otherwise, you will place unnecessary strain on your back and hamstrings. You should feel the effects of the pigeon pose in your right glute, otherwise, you may need to slide your right foot towards your left hand little by little.
If done correctly, you should not be feeling any pressure on your knee cap and you will be resting your palms on the ground while your hips slowly sink down. Once you’ve become comfortable with the position, you will eventually be able to lean forward on your elbows and even law your stomach on your leading thigh. This stretch can last anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes, after which you should switch leading thighs and hold for the same amount of time.
Benefits of this Stretch: The pigeon pose stimulates internal organs, and stretches your deep glutes, groin, and psoas. It also lessens sciatic pain and opens up the hips, which improves your posture, alignment, and provides back pain relief.
3. Mermaid Stretch
How To Do the Stretch: The mermaid stretch is an excellent Pilates move that is ideal for relieving lower back pain. You start by sitting with both knees bent on the ground, one in front of you with your calf parallel to the front of your body, and the other out to the side of your body with your foot pointing back and away from your body. Your front foot should be pressed flat against the thigh of your leg extended to the side. Once in position, straighten your spine out and use the hand closest to your front leg and reach it in the opposite direction, horizontally over your body. An alternative way to do this stretch is by keeping both knees bent and off to one side of your body and stretching one arm over your body towards your bent legs.
If you’re indoors, the goal is to visualize yourself reaching where the wall and ceiling meet and to ensure that your hips are planted during the entire motion. Hold the mermaid stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and exhale when you return to starting position. Best results occur when you do 3-4 repetitions of whatever side of your torso is “closed up”.
Benefits of this Stretch: Mermaid stretch benefits include engaging your intercostal muscles, which are primary breathing muscles, as well as your back extensor muscles. This stretch is especially beneficial for those with scoliosis, because scoliosis is caused by muscular imbalance, and the mermaid stretch targets postural problems caused by too much weight bearing down on one side of your body.
4. Lower Trunk Rotation
How To Do the Stretch: Lower Trunk Rotation is also great for increasing spine mobility when you are suffering from back pain. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the floor. While squeezing both knees together, rotate them over to one side without lifting your feet on the floor. Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds while flexing your abdominal muscles, and then switch your knees to the other side and repeat. You should do this 5 to 10 times on each side to maximize back pain relief.
Benefits of this Stretch: Lower trunk rotation helps increase flexibility in your lower back and hips that allows for easier spinal rotation.
5. Legs up on the Wall
How To Do the Stretch: This is by far one of the simplest stretches for back pain you can do that has a ton of health benefits. While lying on your back on the floor, line up your buttocks with a nearby wall and straighten your legs out against it. You can also choose to elevate your hips by placing them on blocks while doing the legs up on the wall stretch. Concentrate on controlled breathing and relaxed posture for 5 to 10 minutes each day (or multiple times a day) and you will feel a greater relief in your lower back and legs.
Benefits of this Stretch: The legs up on the wall stretch is great for people looking for back pain relief from being on their feet all day. By reversing gravity on your legs, this stretch reduces edema, which is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. It also drains the tension on your feet, legs, and hips. It’s actually quite popular in yoga to do these moves called “inversion poses” because they place your head below your heart so the flow of your blood is reversed. Additionally, this inversion process helps significantly with speeding your digestion.
Back Pain Treatment
As much as stretches for back pain can help relieve discomfort and improve joint mobility, stretching may not be the permanent answer to your chronic pain. It’s important to draw the line between pain that can be solved by home remedies and pain that requires serious treatment. At the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona, we offer several treatments that cover a variety of pain conditions. Our team members will not only explain the cause of your back pain, but also walk you through ways you can manage your pain or treatments that will benefit you long-term. You can learn more about the basics of spinal anatomy and request an appointment to lessen your chronic pain by contacting 520.318.6035.