Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor, according to HealthLine, and nearly 80% of adults will experience low back pain throughout their lives, according to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Understanding your low back pain is vital when it comes to understanding how to relieve it, help it and heal it.
Typically, in my experience, most people experience low back pain due to four main things:
- Alignment & Posture
- Overactivity or Overuse
The thing that most people don’t think about is that poor posture can happen easily and at any time.
Poor posture often occurs when you are:
Because there are so many reasons why we have back pain, there are many things that can help alleviate symptoms depending on the severity of the discomfort, pain or injury.
Check out my recent article where I go into detail about our posture and the 5 main ways to improve posture here.
Here are 5 go-to stretches to help reduce low back pain or discomfort.
Stretch Your Low Back
This pose, Knee to Chest Pose, is an easy one and one of my favorites to do in the morning while still in bed. Do this stretch by laying on your back. From here, bend your knees and hug the knees into your chest. You can grab behind your thighs or on top of your knees.
Take an inhalation as you slowly move the knees away from your chest. Take an exhalation as you slowly hug the knees back towards your chest.
The magic piece in this stretch is to engage the core as you exhale and hug the knees into the chest. When we engage the core here, we’re able to help stretch the muscles of the low back even more, in addition to ‘turning on the core’ which is important in our daily movement.
Try this stretch 8-10 times, moving slowly and mindfully.
2. Engage Your Core
Bound Angle pose, also known as Butterfly Pose, is different than many people think and not as easy as you think, mostly because it challenges you to slow down your breath and your movement in order to get the greatest result.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Then bring the bottoms of your feet together and your knees out wide. If your thighs or hips need support, bring your fists under your upper thighs to prevent your legs from extending all the out.
If your low back feels tight and compressed then hug the belly strongly towards your spine and imagine sending your tailbone to your heels – this will help lengthen your low back.
To begin, inhale fully and relax something. As you exhale, press the bottoms of your feet together and very slowly begin to move the knees so they are ¼ of the way together. Pause at ¼ and take a long, slow inhale. On your next exhale, hug the bottoms of the feet together and bring the knees to ½ of the way together. Continue this until the legs are all the way together and your feet end up on the floor.
Notice that the slower you go, the more benefit you’ll get.
Try this one 3-5x for greatest results. Feel your inner thighs working. Feel your core working to support you.
3. Stretch Your Hammies
This is one of my favorites because nearly everyone needs to stretch the hamstrings. The hamstrings, and in general, the back side of the legs, get really tight the more we sit which happens a lot in our culture.
The thing is, when our hamstrings get super tight from sitting or overactivity, it can pull on the musculature on the low back which can either cause or worsen low back pain. Whaaaat? Yep.
Start lying on your back. Hug your right knee into your chest and interlace your hands behind the thigh. Inhale as you extend your leg up to the ceiling. Spread your toes and hug all 5 toes back towards your knee. Pause. Breathe a few rounds. Then slowly guide the leg out to the right side so that you get a stretch around your groin and inner thigh. Stay for a few breaths. Then bring your leg back to center and slightly over the the left, across the midline. This will get into the outer leg, hip–commonly known as the IT band.
Stay in each position for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the other side. Notice the results in your feet, legs, hips and your low back.
There is so much magic in this pose so start with this simple variation. I go a lot more in-depth inside my 3-month online yoga therapy program for Dental Hygienists, called Foundation to Freedom. Click the link if you want to learn more about the program – the next round starts June 3rd!
4. Stretch Your Mid Back
This next one isn’t a fancy stretch just like the other ones, but it can feel like magic! Our QL, or Quadratus Lumborum, is a deep abdominal muscle on the back next to the spine. According to this HealthLine article, our QL is responsible for a lot of low back pain cases, mainly because it is a prime mover in sitting, standing and walking.
To do this one, start by sitting down in a chair or on the ground. Raise your right arm overhead with an inhale. With your exhale, lean slightly forward and to the left. We are aiming to get a side, or lateral, stretch as well as some stretch in the back. You can adjust the positioning of your torso and your raised arm to explore a deeper stretch. Stay for 5-10 breaths then explore the other side.
5. Move Your Spine
One of the most signatures poses in yoga is one that helps stretch and strengthen our spine is Cat Cow. According to the Iowa Chiropractic Clinic, we need movement in our bodies in order to keep our spine healthy.
Cat Cow does just that for our bodies: it provides fluid and nutrients to get to the vertebrae of the spine by inviting movement into the body.
Start this pose by coming onto all fours, also known as Table Top. Spread your fingers wide and relax your shoulders from your ears. Either curl your toes under or bring the tops of your feet to the floor. As you inhale, press your hands and feet into the ground. As you exhale, stay in table top but strongly hug your belly towards the spine and the inner thighs together.
On your next inhale, arch your back and lift your chest for Cow Pose. As you exhale, round your back dropping your head and tailbone done for Cat Pose.
For increased benefit, as you inhale and arch your back, drop your shoulders from your ears and press your hands into the ground. As you exhale, hug the navel towards the spine and inner thighs together as you round the back.
Continue 5-10 rounds or until you feel complete. There are many ways to enhance this posture but even in it’s most basic form, it is extremely beneficial for the low back.
Encompassing It All
As you can see, all of these stretches help to do one or even two things for the low back, making them extremely powerful in fighting low back pain. They either provide–
- Expansion, space, release, open, soften, or\
- Engage, stabilize, strengthen
Both of these qualities are vital for decreasing pain or discomfort in the body.
If you want these written out with pictures to show, grab this Chairside Guide that I created for Dental Hygienists.
For some of us, low back pain can be optional if we have the tools to manage our body and our overall health, and we utilize them.