How to Stretch to Relieve Back Pain

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Most back pain is the result of muscle strains or sprained ligaments and is resolved within about 6 weeks under a physician's care. Sometimes, however, back pain is the result of sitting or standing in one position too long, and some good stretches may alleviate the pain. If you have determined that your back pain isn't the result of an illness or injury, try a few of the following stretches.

Do Standing Stretches

  • Cross your arms in front of you with your elbows bent and your hands resting on your forearms. Stand straight, maintain good posture and keep your hips aligned with your upper body. Rotate your body in one direction, hold for 3 seconds and then rotate and hold in the other direction. During this stretch, keep your shoulders back, your folded arms straight out in front of you and avoid tilting your hips forward.

  • Place the palms of your hands on the small of your back. With your knees straight, bend backwards, stretching through the upper back and down the center of the spine.

  • Stand in good posture with one hand on your hip and the other outstretched to the side and bent up at the elbow. Bring the outstretched arm up and over your head, as if reaching for the ear on the opposite side of your head. You can feel the stretch as you lift your arm and lengthen the rib cage.

  • Hold onto a chair or desk to stabilize yourself and grab your ankle or the cuff of your pants. Pull your ankle, bending the knee, and try to touch your buttocks with your heel. This may take a little practice to balance and bring the heel all the way to the buttocks, but it's a good stretch for the thigh and lower back.

Do Floor Stretches

  • Start this exercise by lying down face down on the floor. Place your hands on the floor by your shoulders and then bring yourself up on your elbows. Hold this position for 10 seconds or more to stretch your lower back. Keep your lower body relaxed and your hips pressed to the floor during the stretch. Slowly lower your upper body back to the floor and repeat the stretch several times.

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your stomach muscles and slowly press your lower back to the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly relax. Place a rolled towel under your lower back for comfort.

  • Remain on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slowly move your knees from side to side, keeping your feet on the floor. As you move your knees, your hips will come off the floor, and your lower back will twist. Start out with small movements until you know how far you can comfortably twist from side to side.

  • Stretch your lower back and hamstring muscles by lying on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. This time pull your feet in closer to your buttocks. Grasp one knee, bringing it to the chest and keep the other foot flat on the floor. Then bring the other knee to the chest and hold them both there for 10 seconds. Relax and return one leg at a time to the beginning position.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hold your stretches for 15 to 30 seconds each, and repeat them several times during the day.
  • Don't hold your breath during the stretches. They are all done slowly and deliberately with relaxed and even breathing.
  • Notify your physician if your back pain is new, unexplained or severe. Always discontinue any stretching or exercise if your pain worsens.
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