5 gentle lower back stretches

Studies by The National Centre for Biology Information report that about a third of the UK adult population suffers from lower back pain. While the impact of back pain on daily life is testing, there are gentle lower back stretches you can try to experience relief. We share these to guide your first stretch session...

If you’re suffering from lower back pain, then you’re not alone.

Lower back pain (traditionally known as lumbago) is a particularly common form of back pain in adults. According to The World Health Organisation, it is the leading cause of activity limitation and work absence across most parts of the world.

There are two primary types of lower back pain, as reported by The National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke. These are:

  • Acute  this describes lower back pain that lasts for a few days to a few weeks.
  • Chronic  this describes lower back pain that lasts for 12 weeks or longer.
  • Often, acute lower back pain develops into chronic lower back pain. This does not always indicate a serious underlying condition. The NHS states that the cause of chronic back pain is commonly unidentifiable.

Whether your lower back pain is acute or chronic, stretching is a highly effective means of relieving tension, as supported by Harvard Medical: “Stretching is a valuable component of a treatment plan for anyone plagued by back problems. Supple, well-stretched muscles are less prone to injury, while less flexible muscles and connective tissues restrict joint mobility, which increases the likelihood of sprains and strains.”

“Stretch regularly but gently, without bouncing, as that can cause tissue injury. If you aren't used to stretching, start by holding a stretch for a short time and gradually build up to roughly 30-second stretches over time.” Harvard Medical.

If you haven’t tried gentle lower back stretches yet, getting started might be key to combatting your pain.

Here are five gentle stretches for your lower back.

1. Cat-Cow Pose

A popular yoga pose, Cat-Cow pose provides a gentle stretch down your spine as you move from one stretch to the next.

A girl stretching

How to stretch your lower back with Cat-Cow Pose

Begin Cat-Cow on your hands and knees and in a table pose. 

Make sure that your spine falls into a neutral position. 

Inhale deeply. As you exhale, push with your arms to arch your spine and lift your shoulders. At this point, your chin should tuck into your collar and your hands should be placed flat on the floor.

As you inhale again, allow your spine and shoulders to drop toward the ground and release your core. Your neck and head should lift toward the ceiling.

a girl doing the cat-crow pose

Complete this upward and downward stretch as many times as you like.

2. Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is a restful pose that lengthens your spine and stretches your arms. 

illustration of yoga stretch

How to stretch your lower back with Child’s Pose

Begin Child’s Pose by kneeling on the floor with your spine in a neutral position and your knees hip-width apart. 

Place your hands on your thighs and inhale deeply.

As you exhale, lower your torso down to the ground and extend your arms, keeping your hands flat on the floor.

Remain in this pose for as long as you’d like and continue to inhale and exhale deeply and slowly.

3. Seated Spinal Twist

Seated Spinal Twist is a restorative yoga pose that opens the hips and stretches the torso.

Girl doing yoga pose on matt

How to stretch your lower back with Seated Spinal Twist

Begin Seated Spinal Twist by sitting on cross-legged on the floor, with one leg folded in front of the other and your spine in a neutral position. 

Place your right hand on your right knee and twist your spine to the right. 

Lengthen your spine and return to the centre. 

Place your left hand on your left knee and twist your spine to the left.

Alternate between twists as much as you would like, holding the pose for three to five breaths on each side. Inhale when lengthening your spine and exhale when twisting.

4. Knee-to-chest

Knee-to-chest is a classic yoga pose that stretches your hips and glutes and eases lower back pain.

illustration of man stretching thigh

How to stretch your lower back with Knee-to-chest

Begin Knee-to-chest by lying on your back with one leg bent upwards and one leg straight on the ground.

Place your hands on your upward hamstring and pull your leg toward your chest until you can feel a light stretch across your leg. 

Hold this position for as long as you would like. 

Alternate between leg stretches as many times as you can. Inhale when pulling your leg toward you, exhale when holding the pose.

5. Supine Spinal Twist

Supine Spinal Twist helps realign and lengthen the spin, easing lower back pain. 

girl lying stretching out leg

How to stretch your lower back with Supine Spinal Twist

Begin Supine Spinal Twist by lying on your back, bending your knees and placing your feet flat on the floor.

Inhale, bringing your knees to the left and letting them drop beside you, relieving tension. Exhale and bring your knees back to the centre and place your feet back on the ground. 

Repeat this pose on your right side.

You can hold this pose on either side for as long as you would like, inhaling and exhaling as you transition.

girl stretching in the sunshine

Remember to practice deep breathing with lower back stretches. This will help you relax, focus on the present and release tension in your core, as supported by Harvard Medical: “Breath focus helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing and aids you in disengaging from distracting thoughts and sensations. It's especially helpful if you tend to hold in your stomach.”

These five lower back stretches could be life-changing for you. 

Begin your first session today.

Discover more: How does Pilates help lower back pain?

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