Authored by Julia Drake – Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health
Stretching is a simple and easy to learn practice to help relieve low back pain. It can be done anywhere and at any time, performed standing, in a chair, or on the floor. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time*. This being said, if you’re experiencing low back pain, you are not alone! We’re here to guide you through three easy stretches from either a chair or on the floor to help relieve low back pain.
The human back is a very complex structure. It houses the spine, which is made up of 33 individual bones called vertebrae. Just like every other bone in our body, these vertebrae have muscles attached to them. These muscles then attach to other bones, which have other muscles attached to them, and so on. All of the bones and muscles in our entire body are connected. Just like a string of Christmas lights – if one fuse blows, it can burn the entire string all the way to the end. So if one muscle is tight, it can affect an entirely different muscle in the body. For this reason, often times the culprit for lower back pain can be tight muscles surrounding the back. Here are some stretches to lengthen not only the back muscles but also its surrounding muscles to relieve low back pain.
(If you experience any intense sharp or electric pain, or an increase in current back pain while performing these stretches, discontinue stretches and consult your doctor)
The Cat/Cow is a great exercise to start with because it slowly “wakes up” the low back muscles with gentle movement. This movement encourages blood flow to the area, loosening the muscles to work out any stiff kinks.
To perform the cat/cow standing:
To perform the cat/cow from the mat:
Repeat this exercise 10 times.
Remember our Christmas Lights analogy? The hamstring muscle is attached to the pelvis (the hips!), which is attached to the low back muscles. A physical therapist once told me that 80% of their patients with lower back pain were diagnosed with tight hamstrings. If the hamstring muscles are tight, it can tug on the pelvis, and possibly lead to tiring pain in the low back muscles.
To perform the hamstring stretch seated:
To perform the hamstring stretch from the mat:
Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds to 2 minutes, then repeat with the other leg.
Child’s pose is the perfect stretch to end with because it is the complete package of both stretch and relaxation. Prolonged stress can cause our bodies to subconsciously tense our muscles, contributing to muscle tightness. This stretch naturally calms the body, allowing our muscles to relax and sink deeper into the stretch.
To perform the child’s pose standing:
To perform the child’s pose from the mat:
Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Fitness Instructor at Hilton Head Health
“Back Pain Facts and Statistics.” American Chiropractic Association , American Chiropractic Association , www.acatoday.org/Patients/What-is-Chiropractic/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics.