Back pain can be very debilitating as it affects everything from sitting down to standing up. When it strikes, we often find ourselves in bed unable to do things because it’s just painful to move. And even when in bed, it can be difficult to get relief or sleep.
According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 100 million Americans suffer from back pain. In fact, it is the leading cause of missed work days in the U.S.
The American Academy of Pain Medicine notes that chronic back pain affects more people than in the U.S. The figure is so bid that it outnumbers those suffering from diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer combined.
If you suffer from back pain that interferes with your daily life, one good alternative to going to see a chiropractor is to do some simple stretches at home.
Here are some effective stretches for back pain.
Stretches for Back Pain Relief
1. Cat and Camel
This is a gentle but effective way of stretching the back muscles. In the process it also helps provide some pelvic movement.
- Start by kneeling on the floor and getting on all fours. We recommend doing this on a workout mat to have some cushioning on your knees.
- Position your knees underneath your hips and your wrists under each shoulder.
- Begin by engaging your abs and keep your spine in neutral position.
- Slowly round your spine upwards by pushing your abdominal muscles to your spine. This will give you a good stretch on both the upper and lower back. Exhale while your do this.
- Hold the stretch for around 10 to 20 seconds, then slowly return to your starting position.
- Next, lift your butt toward the ceiling.
- Then arch your back and press your stomach towards the ground.
- Hold this stretch for 10 to 20 seconds, and return back to your starting position.
2. Lying Twist
This is twisting helps provide relief and gives you a nice gentle stretch. Note that when doing this exercise don’t overdo things and go only as far as it feels comfortable.
- Lie on your back and raise your arms to the sides. In this position you’re basically forming a letter “T” with your arms and body.
- Bend your knees so that they point to the ceiling while keeping your feet on the floor.
- While keeping your knees together, slowly roll them to one side until they reach the ground. Go only as far as it feel comfortable.
- When doing so, make sure to keep your shoulders pinned to the ground. Don’t let them lift from the ground.
- Hold the stretch position for a few seconds and slowly bring your knees back to the middle.
- Then roll then towards the other side.
3. Seated Spinal Twist
This stretch helps provide relief from tension and stiffness not only on your lower back but also on your neck and shoulders.
- Start by sitting on the floor with both legs stretched out.
- Lift the left leg up so the knee points to the ceiling.
- Then place the left foot outside the right thigh so you end up sitting cross-legged.
- From this position, twist your torso and place the back of your right elbow against the left side of the raised knee.
- Put your left hand on the floor to support your weight.
- This gentle twist will give you a nice stretch on the lower and upper back as well as the shoulders and neck.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds and then do the same for the other side.
You can also do this sitting on a chair. To do the seated twist on a chair,
- Find an armless chair to sit on.
- Cross your left leg over your right leg.
- Then extend your right arm and brace it against the back of your left leg.
- This essentially gives you the same stretch, by twisting your upper torso.
- Keep the stretched position for 10 seconds.
- Then do the same for the right side.
4. Back extensions
This stretch offers a gentle lengthening of the spine and works to help counter the effects of sitting on your chair all day long.
- Begin by lying on the floor on your stomach.
- From this position, move your elbows under your shoulders to prop up your upper back.
- Keep your neck straight while doing this and try not to bend your neck backwards.
- In this position, you’ll feel a gentle lengthening of the spine as well as a nice stretch on your stomach area.
- Hold this position from 5 to 10 seconds and lower yourself.
5. The Piriformis Stretch (The Figure 4 Stretch)
This is a great stretch for the piriformis muscle which connects your lower spine to your thigh bone. This muscle lets us rotate our hips so we can turn our feet and leg outward. Because it connects the hip to the spine, problems with your piriformis can lead to back pain. And helping stretch this muscle out can provide relief from back pain.
- Begin by lying on your back.
- Bend both knees so they point towards the ceiling. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your foot and place it on your right thigh. This will form a figure 4, while you’re on your back.
- Place your hands behind your right knee (the one on the floor).
- Use your hands to gently pull your right thigh towards your chest.
- This will give your left hip, thigh and buttock a good stretch.
- Then slowly lower your right leg.
- Do the same with the other leg.
6. Knee to Chest
You can do this exercise using one or two knees. Bringing one knee to the chest each time makes it easier than doing both knees at the same time so you can start by doing that and slowly move towards doing this stretch with both knees.
- Being by lying on your back on a mat.
- Like your knees to the ceiling while keeping your feet on the floor.
- Grab your knees with your hands and slowly pull them up towards your chest.
- This will give you a mild stretch on your hips as well as lower back.
- Hold the position for 5 to 15 seconds.
- Then lower your knees back.
Note that if you can’t get your knees to reach your chest, don’t worry about it. Just go as far as you comfortably feel. As you do the stretch more, your flexibility will increase.