Back problems are one of the most common pains that people experience around the world. Especially with our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, our bodies become stiff, tight, and gradually over time, immobile. These are ten of the best back & spine stretches to help relieve lower back tightness and improve your overall mobility.
Signs Your Lower Back is Tight
Just because your lower back isn’t in pain, doesn’t mean that it isn’t tight. Over time, a tight back can worsen, however, and will eventually cause you pain and restrict your ability to participate in activities. After a while, even everyday movements like picking something up off of the floor can become difficult.
Tightness in the lower back can feel like a variety of things:
- A constant, dull ache
Often this is accompanied by tightness in your pelvis, hips, and legs. If your back is feeling this way after a workout, it could very likely be from the workout. Workout-related tightness and soreness can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to subside.
If you are experiencing sharp pains post-workout, however, this could be a sign that you have done something to your back and you should go see your doctor or physical therapist.
Nine Back & Spine Stretches for a Tight Back
Frequent exercise, such as walking, swimming, and yoga, is one of the best things you can do for your back and your whole body. Our bodies were meant to move, so the more often you do so, the better off you will be.
Of course, many of us work jobs that require us to sit all day long. Combine that with time spent sitting in transit, sitting for meals, and sitting for leisure time, that’s a lot of hours spent seated in a chair. It takes more than one hour of exercise each day to correct for that.
These are nine back & spine stretches that you can do anytime, anywhere to help improve the mobility of your lower back.
1. Hip Circles
This is a nice, easy warm-up stretch that gently gets that area moving. It will help you to loosen up both your lower back and your hip muscles as well as engage your abdominal and glute muscles.
- Stand tall with your hands on your hips and your feet just a bit wider than your hips.
- Gently move your hips from side to side.
- Slowly start moving your hips in a circle in one direction.
- Do several rotations that direction before switching and repeating going the opposite.
This common yoga pose is excellent both for warming up, stretching your spine, and loosening the tight muscles around it.
- Come down to the floor on all-fours, with your hands stacked beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Your weight should be distributed evenly between all four points.
- Take a slow breath in as you drop your belly towards the floor and your head and bum towards the ceiling.
- Exhale slowly as you reverse the position, dropping your head down and arching your back upwards, keeping your shoulders away from your ears.
- Continue for several repetitions, keeping your movement in time with your breathing.
3. Pelvic Tilts
This exercise engages your glutes and strengthens your lower back. It also helps to increase your mobility in those areas.
- Come down on your back with your knees bent and heels underneath your knees. Extend your arms out to your sides.
- Squeeze your lower core muscles to push your lower back into the floor.
- Continue squeezing for 5 seconds
- Repeat 3 or 4 times, gradually adding one repetition each time until you can do 10.
4. Knee to Chest Stretch
This will help to stretch out your lower back as well as tight glutes.
- Lie on your back with both legs extended.
- Pull one knee into your chest with your hands around your shin, not your knee.
- Hold this for five seconds, then release your leg slowly back down.
- Repeat four or five times on each side.
- Pull both knees into our chest and hold for 30 seconds, holding again at your shins.
5. Reclining Single-Leg Stretch
Lower back tightness can often be either caused by or exacerbated by tight hamstrings. This stretch releases both the lower back and regains length in the hamstrings.
- Lie on your back with both legs extended.
- Lift up one leg as straight as you can while still maintaining a slight bend in the knee. If you prefer you can bend your opposite knee and push that heel into the ground for support.
- Using either your hands, a towel, or a band, hold your leg behind your thigh just below the knee (not behind the knee).
- Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds on each leg, repeating two or three times per side.
6. Windshield Wipers
This movement stretches out the sides of your glutes and relieves tension in your lower back.
- Lie on your back with your arms extended out from your body. Bend and lift your knees in the air so that they are stacked above your hips.
- Breathe out slowly as you gently drop your knees to the right and turn your head to look left.
- Inhale to come back to the center before you exhale again and drop your knees down to the left, again turning your head in the opposite direction.
- Repeat for one minute or for 5 to 10 repetitions per side.
7. Legs On the Wall Stretch
This is another excellent hamstring stretch that also allows you to relax your other muscles while moving through it.
- Come to a seated position with one side of your body against the wall.
- Lie down on your back and gently swing your legs up along the wall. You may need to adjust your bum to be closer or further away from the wall, depending on your flexibility. You also may want something soft underneath your hips.
- With your arms in whatever position is comfortable, relax your lower back and allow the wall to stretch out your hamstrings. You may wish to gently bend and straighten your knees to work your way into the stretch.
- Stay here for one or two minutes, breathing calmly throughout.
8. Child’s Pose
Used often in yoga as a resting position, this pose is fantastic for releasing the lower back and relaxing the body.
- Start in the tabletop position, then sit back on your heels with your knees pointed slightly apart.
- Fold forward at the waist and place your forehead on the floor. You can stretch your arms out in front of you, actively pressing your hands into the floor like you are pushing back on your body, or you can extend your arms out behind you for a more relaxed pose.
- Allow your body to completely relax, allowing all the tension to release.
- Hold for one or two minutes.
9. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
This is the ultimate relaxation pose to finish off your stretching sequence. The goal of this position is to completely relax every muscle in your body.
- Lie on your back with your legs extended outward and your arms alongside your body. Your palms can either be facing up toward the sky or down onto the floor.
- Place your feet slightly wider than your hips.
- Breathe slowly and deeply, allowing your body to relax: Toes, feet, legs, hips, back, chest, arms, hands, neck, and face.
- Hold this for 10 to 20 minutes or for however long you are comfortable.
- When you are ready to come out of the position, start by slowly wiggling your fingers and toes. Introduce small movement to each part of the body. When you are ready, fold your knees up towards your chest and roll onto your right or left side. From there, use your hands to bring yourself back up into the seated position. Slowly stand up again from there.
10. Bonus: Seated Lower Back Twist
This is the perfect stretch you can do at any point during the day while sitting at your desk.
- Sitting upright in your chair, exhale and gently twist your torso to one side, grabbing hold of the back of the chair for assistance.
- Continue breathing, attempting to gently twist a bit further with each exhale.
- Hold for five breaths then return to center.
- Repeat on the other side.
The Bottom Line
There are many reasons why you may be experiencing lower back pain and tightness. If stretching and mobility exercises don’t help, go see your doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to help you determine whether or not there is a deeper issue going on causing your problems.
Keep Reading: 8 Stretches You Should Do Every Morning To Feel Strong, Flexible And Grounded
- “9 Stretches to Help Relieve a Tight Lower Back.” Healthline. Emily Cronkleton. April 22, 2019.
This article originally appeared on The Hearty Soul in September 2020 and has been published here with permission.