If you have been diagnosed with simple or non-specific back pain (the most common type of back pain) you will probably know that back stretching exercises may help to ease the pain and stiffness you are feeling. It is very easy to get into a vicious circle with back pain - when it is sore you feel nervous and more like protecting it rather than moving it. But if you don't move and stretch its much worse. The joints stiffen and the muscles which support the spine become tense and can feel very tight (muscle spasm). Moving your back in a gentle controlled way can be a really helpful way to ease some of these symptoms.
Not all back exercises are suitable for everyone so please check with your doctor before starting any exercise programme. However, I have collected together some easy back pain stretches here that I have found helpful. These three exercises are all bending forward or flexion exercises and make a good start for a daily back pain exercise and stretch routine.
1. A very easy back stretch exercise (lying down)
This is a one of the best back exercises to try if you are very stiff and nervous about moving.
Level - Easy
Lie on your back on the floor or your bed
Gently hug your knees to your chest.
Feel a gentle stretching in your lower back
This exercise stretches the joints, ligaments and muscles in your lower back.
2. A nice easy back pain exercise sitting down
This is a nice easy stretching exercise for lower back pain, and because its done sitting in a chair you can do it anywhere from the home to the office. Often when you have severe lower back pain it can feel quite frightening to begin moving your back. This back stretching exercise is nice as you can feel completely in control of the movement, and you can ease into the stretch gently
Level – Easy
Sit down on a low stool or chair and curl down towards the floor.
If you bend from the hip it makes the exercise too easy. It can look as if you have a wonderfully flexible spine, when in fact it has hardly moved at all! Try instead to concentrate on curling your spine down one vertebra at a time, I use the phrase 'concertina' down to the floor as this seems to help.
Don’t let your bottom lift up as that is a cheat as well and makes this exercise too easy.
Stop when you feel a stretch in your lower back and hold it for a few seconds.
You may not get very far before you feel this stretch - don't worry, just practice and the movement should improve.
3.A slightly harder exercise for lower back pain - on hands and knees
This is a little bit harder to get right but it is one of my favourite types of exercise for lower back pain. One of the best things about this exercise is it gets you in the habit of moving your lower back independently of your pelvis and helps to strengthen your stomach muscles (this is an important part of core stabilization work).
Level – moderate
On hands and knees
Arch your lower back upwards ( a bit like the cat stretch in yoga)
Don't rock forwards and backwards - your nose should stay pointing at the same place on the floor.
Don't do press ups either - keep your elbows straight.
Think about ‘tucking your tail in’ if you are having trouble with this.
Make sure that you stretch your lower back and not just the area between your shoulder blades.
Practice tightening your lower stomach muscles to increase the stretch in your lower back area.
Stretch slowly and with good control.
Get someone to check it for you to make sure you are doing it right.
See a video demonstration of this back stretching exercise below:
I particularly like this exercise because it has several great benefits:
It moves your low back, stretching muscles and ligaments.
Its good for tightening the abdominal or 'core stability' muscles.
It helps teach you how to move your pelvis independently of your lower back - something many people with lower back pain have problems with.
This exercise can be paired with this back extension exercise to increase the amount of extension or backwards bend in your low back.
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