Back pain is one of the most common pain conditions every year with roughly sixteen million adults experiencing chronic back pain in one form or another. Back pain is also one of the leading causes for missed days at work and workers' compensation claims. With so many adults who experience back pain when performing everyday activities, it's essential to find a way to effectively manage back pain symptoms, improve range of motion, and alleviate pain when it arises. Stretching and moving the back can be a great way to alleviate some of the pain and tension that can cause back pain and make even the simplest of activities seem impossible. Before beginning any stretching or exercise program, it's important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional or licensed physical therapist. We help treat patients who experience back pain with physical therapy and have highlighted several stretches that can help you improve your range of motion and alleviate back pain when it arises.
Chronic lower back pain is one of the leading complaints from individuals all across America and can occur from a variety of sources or build up over time without any specific incident. Take a look at some of the best stretches for lower back pain.
This is a great stretch to gently get the back loosened up and relieve stiffness in the low back. To begin, you will want to lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Let your knees fall to one side until you feel a gentle stretch and then move them to the opposite side gently rotating back and forth.
For this stretch, you want to once again be lying on the ground flat on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the ground. To begin this stretch, you want to cross one leg over the opposite side and rest that leg's ankle on the knee and leg that is still planted on the ground. Grab the knee that is now supporting the crossed leg and slowly pull your knee towards your chest until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back. Hold this stretch for ten seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat for the opposite leg. Repeat this stretch several times.
For the kneeling lunge stretch, you want to get into a kneeling position on both knees. Select a side and take one step forward with your foot positioned flat on the ground in front of you while the other side is still kneeling. With your weight evenly centered between your hips, squeeze your glutes and then gently lean forward towards your front leg until you feel a slight stretch in the front of your hip. Hold this position for ten to fifteen seconds and then repeat for the opposite leg.
To begin the knee to chest stretch, you want to lie flat on your back with both hands positioned at your sides. Begin the stretch by gently pulling one knee to your chest with your hands and holding the position for several seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. This stretch will help you alleviate back pain in both your lower back and mid-back. Once you've held this position for several seconds, return to the starting position and repeat a few more times.
The supine hamstring stretch can be a great way to stretch out your lower back and the back of the legs to alleviate the feeling of your back being tight. To begin this stretch, lay on the ground with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Bend one knee towards your chest and use both hands to hold onto the back of the thigh. Slowly straighten the knee and point your foot towards the ceiling until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the leg. Hold for 10-15 seconds. If you feel any numbness or tingling, lower the leg until that goes away. Return to the starting position and repeat this activity several times.
Individuals who have attended a yoga class might be familiar with this stretch. To begin this stretch, you want to get on your hands and knees with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. From there, you want to slowly extend your arms out in front of you with your palms flat on the floor and begin to shift your hips back towards your heels. While doing that, your body will naturally want to lower your head between your arms to give you an opportunity to stretch out your back. Hold this position for ten to fifteen seconds taking nice deep breaths and then return to the starting position once again. Perform this stretch four to six times.
Another stretch for those individuals who have a bit of yoga experience is the cat/cow stretch. To begin this back stretch, you want to start by kneeling on all fours just like you did for the Child's Pose with your shoulders aligned with your hands and your knees aligned with your hips. From there, you want to make sure that your spine is aligned parallel with the floor and begin inhaling and slowly rounding your back like a cat towards the ceiling. Hold this position for five to ten seconds and then relax the back to the starting position. Next allow the back to arch with the belly button moving towards the ground then return to the starting position while exhaling slowly. Repeat this movement and stretch several times while focusing on keeping a steady pace with controlled breathing techniques.
Individuals who experience upper back pain can also stretch out those supporting muscles with some shoulder and neck movements including the shoulder roll. This stretch will help you alleviate some of the tension that can build up in your upper back and alleviate pain with a few simple shoulder rotations. To begin this stretch, you want to be standing with your arms comfortably at your sides. Roll your shoulders in tandem forward in a circular motion for five to ten rotations and then repeat the same circular motion backwards. After ten repetitions in both directions, rest for 30 seconds to a minute and then repeat the stretch several times.
For this stretch, you will need a chair you can comfortably sit in that has a backrest you can grab like a kitchen or dining room chair. To begin this stretch, sit in the chair with your back perpendicular to the backrest and your feet planted on the ground in front of you. At a controlled pace, rotate your body to turn toward the backrest and reach for the back of the chair with your hands to hold onto. Pause and then return to the starting position. Repeat this stretch several times for one side and then change your body position to repeat for the other side. This stretch will allow you to stretch out your entire back.
To begin this stretch, you want to be sitting comfortably on the ground with both of your legs extended in front of you and toes pointed towards the ceiling. From there, you want to bend your right knee and place the foot on the opposite side to the outside of your left thigh with your right foot planted on the ground. After that, you will place your left arm across your right leg just below the knee and position your right arm behind you to provide additional support like a tripod leg. Once you're in this position, you can slowly rotate your upper body and twist to the right until you feel a gentle stretch in your back. Hold this position for fifteen to thirty seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat for the opposite side.
Don't let back pain slow you down! Each one of our licensed physical therapists at a clinic near you can help you treat and alleviate your back pain with physical therapy. Our licensed PTs can develop a unique treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs and goals based on proper stretching, manual therapy, controlled exercises, education, and more. If you're currently experiencing back pain, schedule an appointment today to connect with a licensed physical therapist who can help you alleviate back pain.