Lower Back Stretches

The following lower back stretches may assist you with releasing tight muscles, improving flexibility and circulation in the back and legs which can then allow pressure to come off nerve pathways and pain levels to decrease.

If you have difficulty getting down and up off the floor, make sure you have a stool or chair (not on wheels) to assist you or someone nearby. When lying on the floor, you may need to cushion your spine by lying on a yoga mat or carpet. If needed you can use a small pillow or towel to support your head. If mobility is an issue, some of these stretches can be done on a firm bed or in a chair. 

Starting out you might only be able to do one or two repetitions of a stretch, that’s fine. If you do these daily or even every second or third day, you’ll gradually build up to more repetitions and then you’ll be ready

Devoting full attention means no mobile phones or doing this while watching TV, etc. You want full focus on your body and what you are doing. Many people were injured initially by not being mindful or concentrating on what they were doing. 

Breathe deeply as much as possible during these exercises. Belly or diaphragmatic breathing helps take your body out of ‘stress’ mode and will help you relax. Holding your breath too long may raise blood pressure.

Don’t do stretches cold. Warm up first by walking on the spot or doing gentle movement, having a warm shower or applying a heat pack on the problem area.

The following stretches and exercises are not for acute pain, recent accident or injury. See your doctor or health professional for advice in those cases. You can come back to these activities once you have moved past the emergency phase. And remember you do not have to do all of the following, choose which are relevant for you.

Floor (on Elbows):
This gentle position can be a good way to start helping yourself at home. Lie flat on the floor on your stomach and relax your back. Once this position is comfortable, come up to lean and rest on your elbows (ideally directly under the shoulders). Relax in that position for a couple of minutes depending on your pain level. If resting on your elbows is too high at this stage, come down and rest your chin onto your hands. You can do this position several times during the day if you wish. To get up off the floor, consider tightening the stomach muscles to protect your lower back and move slowly.

Feet on Chair:
Lie on your back on the floor and place your feet up onto a chair. Relax for up to ten minutes. Focus on breathing deeply and you have the option of slowly turning your head to one side, then the other, coming back to centre before relaxing. Hand option: palms up can help to open up the chest, shoulders and start to reverse round shouldered posture.

Floor Stretch:
Lie on your back on the floor and gently stretch your arms above your head, breathing deeply. Stretch and elongate the body, from finger tips to toes. Slowly point and then flex the toes, gently relax.

Pelvic Tilts:
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Stomach muscles tightened, gently curl your tailbone up and towards you, your lower back will tend to flatten on the floor. Hold for several seconds. Slowly lower your tailbone back to the floor and your spine to naturally curve. Continue for three to ten repetitions. These are small movements, gently rocking the tailbone.

Knee to Chest:
Lie on your back on the floor and slowly bend your knees placing your feet flat on the floor. Adjust your hips and lower back so you feel comfortable. Gently stretch and lengthen your spine (from tailbone to the crown of your head) chin should be in a natural and neutral position. Bend one knee up to your chest and grab your knee/leg with two hands if possible. If that is too hard use a belt or towel. Hold the stretch as long as comfortable and then slowly release down onto the floor. When you start you may only be able to do the stretch for a couple of seconds, that’s OK. Remember to keep breathing. Bend the other knee towards your chest and repeat as above. If comfortable, you can repeat the stretch and alternate the knees. Option: you can also do this stretch with both knees together and hugging them into your chest. Option: if lower back or hip pain is not an issue, the resting or non-stretched leg can be fully extended to lie flat on the floor while the bent knee is brought to chest.

Lying Hamstring Stretch:
Lie on your back, slowly bend your knees and place both feet flat on the floor. Adjust your hips and back for comfort. Bring one knee up towards your chest and grasp it with both hands. Slowly extend and straighten the knee so you can feel the stretch into the back of the leg. Hold your leg at the back of your thigh or you can use a band, belt or towel and hook it around the ball of your foot. Hold for 10–30 seconds. You can also flex the ankle slowly up and down while holding this position. Don’t forget to breathe! When you are ready to lower the leg, gently bend the knee first and then lower the leg to the floor. Repeat stretch with the other leg. Option: if it is too hard to get down onto the floor, you can do this seated in a chair or standing with foot elevated on a step.

Seated Hamstring Stretch:
Seated on the floor, bend one knee and bring that foot near your body, keeping the knee as close to the floor as you can comfortably. Extend and straighten the other leg in front of you, foot flexed and toes up to the ceiling. Keeping your back as straight as possible, lean forward at the hips and toward the outstretched leg and foot. Use a band, belt or towel around the ball of the foot to hold the stretch (pointing the toes, lessens the stretch). Repeat stretch with the other leg. Sitting on a cushion or block to raise the hips may help with this stretch.

Floor Groin Stretch:
Sit with feet facing each other and together, knees bent and comfortably low to the floor. The closer your feet to your body the more intense the stretch but work within your limits. Sitting on a cushion or block to raise the hips may help with this stretch. Option: can be done standing. Legs apart, bend one knee and lean to the side, to feel stretch in the other hip and groin.

Calf Stretch:
May also assist with cramping and tight ankles. Standing a short distance away from a wall, gently lean forward and push against it with the leg you want to stretch behind you. Keep your heel of that back leg planted to the floor or as close as you can. You can adjust the angle of your foot by leaning further into the wall. The greater the angle of your ankle and foot, the more it stretches the lower leg.