Blue graphic with the words 12 stretches to ease lower back pain on it. Man in the middle doing an exercise.
Written by : Luke Rumbyrt – Program Specialist at the Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center

Almost everyone will experience low back pain in their life. Some of us wake up with it randomly, and others feel it slowly over time. The first thing is to understand that there are two types of back pain, which are usually identified by doctors as “mechanical” or “organic.” Mechanical back pain is the most common, and can be associated with muscle spasms, ligament strains, fractures and arthritis. These types of injuries can occur acutely, or they can develop over long periods of time from lifting and carrying loads improperly.

So what do you do if you are a retail worker, nurse, or caregiver, and your job requires you to stay on your feet with little time off? Maybe you have people counting on you, and you can’t afford to take 4-6 weeks off for physical therapy. Whether you currently have low back pain or are trying to avoid it, take a breath, because we have some resources just for you. 

One of the major contributors of low back pain is improper postural alignment. So when we stand or sit, and shift our weight to one side for long periods of time it can slowly cause inflammation and muscle imbalances. Our muscles can become extremely tight, which pulls our pelvis and spine out of alignment. Therefore, stretching can be a huge relief to the muscles and joints. 

So how, when, and where should you stretch? Early in the morning and late at night are ideal times to stretch. You can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to complete some of the stretches below. They can be done in the comfort of your home, at a local park, or at the gym.

If you have a labor intensive job, stretching and performing these exercises consistently will keep your low back strong and healthy. The stronger you are, the longer you can stay in the game and keep serving and providing for the people that need you most.

Stretches to Help with Low Back Pain

Important stretches to focus on to help low back pain are: Child Pose, Hangs, Pigeon Stretch, and the Figure 4 Stretch. Ease in and out of a difficult stretch for 15-30s and then move on to the next muscle group.


Man lying on ground on his knees stretching with arms above his head.

Child Pose

Push your hips back and hold the stretch for 15-30 second, and make sure you breathe deeply throughout the stretch

Man stretching on ground, one leg extended straight behind him and one leg bent in front of him. Man fully bent over, elbows on the ground in front of his bent leg.

Pigeon Stretch

You should feel this stretch in the back hip

This is great stretch for Sciatic Nerve relief

Man lying on back. Both legs in the air. One bent at 90 degrees. The other crossed over it. Both hands clasped on the bent leg right under the knee.

Figure 4 Stretch

If you can’t hold your leg up, then you can use a wall to prop your foot up

Make sure you push on the outside knee to open up the hip because it allows for a deeper stretch

Man hanging from exercise bar. Arms shoulder length apart. Legs slightly bent to avoid hitting the ground.

Hangs

Decompress the spine and hang on getting a good pull for 10-20 seconds


Exercises to Relieve Current Back Pain

Some Pivotal exercises to focus on in the gym if you currently have low back pain are: Elevated Planks, Elevated Side Planks, Bird Dogs, and the Slow Crunch.

Man with elbows on a chair about shoulder length apart. Feet on the ground with all of the weight on his toes. Back straight.

Elevated Planks

This is a great beginner exercise to reinforce the core because it helps the lower back recover and gain strength

Man with one elbow on a chair, whole body facing us, legs on the ground with weight distributed on the inner part of the foot, body straight

Elevated Side Planks

This is a more difficult movement than the elevated plank because it challenges lateral stabilization and engages the oblique muscles in your core

Man on his knees, one straight leg raised to 90 degrees even with his back, opposite arm also raised to 90 degrees. Arm, leg and body should make a straight line.

Bird Dogs

Make sure you do this exercise slowly and under control

You should start on your hands and knees, raise your left hand and then right leg as shown above

Now hold the position for 15-30 seconds

Come back to the starting position, and then raise your right hand and left leg

Feel your weight shift and your core activate as you lift each limb and reach out

Man lying on his back, knees bent, feet flat on the ground, arms stretched by his side, head slightly raised

Slow Crunch

Start by laying on your back with knees bent as shown above

Then place your hands wherever is comfortable, and begin to slowly curl up and activate your abdominals

Hold the crunch (in the position shown above) for 5-10 seconds and then slowly relax


Exercises to Prevent Low Back Pain

Exercises to perform to prevent low back pain include: Suitcase Carries, Plank Rotations, Side Lying Leg Raise, and Reverse Hypers. 

Man walking carrying a dumbbell weight in one hand

Suitcase carries

The dumbell places load on one side of the body which forces the body to mobilize and maintain activation at all times

You can do this exercise with any weight you have because it simply helps provide a counterbalance to stretch your back while you walk.

Man on the ground, supporting his weight with both feet, weight distributed on his toes and on one elbow. Twisting so that one arm is in the air. Both elbows and shoulders make a straight line.

Plank Rotations

Start in a plank position on your elbows with arms about shoulder width apart.

Then rotate so that you are balancing on one arm with both feet remaining planted on the ground as shown above.

Hold the position for 5-10 seconds and then return to plank position

Rotate onto the other side, and then repeat

This exercise forces the spine to rotate while balancing which helps improve overall movement

This will help strengthen the low back and prepare it for the demands we place on it everyday

Lying Side Leg Raise

Start by laying down on your side

Then raise your leg with your arm outstretched as shown above

Hold for 5-10 seconds

Then bring your leg back down and roll over to your other side

You should repeat on the other side

This exercise is crucial to strengthen the Glute Medius. This muscle is important because it aids in balance and stabilization.

It is important to keep the glute muscles strong so that the body does not compensate with the weaker lower back muscles

Man lying on his stomach on a workout bench. Both legs raised to be even with his body. Hands gripping the legs of the workout bench to keep balanced.

Reverse Hypers

Start by laying on your stomach on a bench (if you are at a gym) or a chair (if you are doing this at home)

Make sure you have something stable like chair legs to grab on to for support

Then slowly lift your legs into the air and hold for 5-10 seconds

Do not lift your legs higher than is shown in the image above

This exercise may look strange, but it is one of the best exercises to prevent and combat low back pain

This exercise provides traction and activation of the low back and is extremely important

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