Lower back pain describes the discomfort or pain experienced below the rib cage and above the glutes, with or without leg pain. Lower back pain has become one of the most prevalent and ubiquitous injuries that has affected people in the last few decades. This injury affects, not only adults and older people, but also young adults and athletes.
In this article we will explore some of the causes of lower back pain, the ways in which stretching can be beneficial, and will look at some basic stretches that you can use to get started with.
Causes of Lower Back pain
Lower back pain may be caused by a few different things. Firstly, it could be chronic or health related. In 2003 it was seen that 27% of the Dutch population suffered from lower back pain. Lower back pain is very common and affects a large amount of people worldwide.
Secondly, the world is rapidly becoming digitised, with technology evolving and changing at a ridiculous pace. As a result, more and more people are spending their day hunched over phone and laptop screens, sitting at desks or on their couches, with very little movement or activity.
Thirdly, in terms of athletes, there has been an increase in the volume and intensity of condition and strength training over the past few years, with athletes increasingly being exposed to this from an earlier age.
Whatever the cause, lower back pain is extremely uncomfortable and can negatively impact, not only your everyday life, but can also have an impact on your workouts and overall fitness. Other than strengthening and exercise, one way to help ease lower back pain is through stretching.
Benefits of Stretching
Stretching is an extremely important activity that is used by both athletes and people in their everyday life. It is used before workouts, sports, or general physical activity in order to increase performance and reduce the risk of injury. Post workout it is used to help relax sore or tight muscles and increase your mobility.
Stretching also helps with our general flexibility which is very important to our everyday lives. Being more flexible also helps to increase our physical performance and athletic ability, making our workouts more effective and enjoyable.
Additionally, stretching helps to reduce pain and increase our general range of motion. This is especially effective for people with muscle injuries such as lower back pain. Regular stretching can strengthen the muscles in the back helping to prevent back pain in the future and reducing the risk of injury or a muscle strain.
Lower back stretches
As stated above, stretching can be an extremely useful way to reduce back pain, especially when paired with strengthening exercises. There are many different types of lower back stretches, however. This section will cover what we think are some of the best lower back exercises.
(Disclaimer: we are not doctors or medical professionals. All exercise should be done with caution and proper form. Do your own research and contact a physio therapist or doctor if you experience severe pain)
Knee to chest stretch
Having tight hips and hips flexors is a major cause of lower back pain. This exercise relaxes your hips, as well as your thighs and glutes, allow you to get a good stretch on your lower back. To perform the stretch, lie flat on your back with both legs extended. Bend the working leg and pull it towards you holding either the back of the thigh or the top of the shin – you should feel a light stretch at the back of the leg. Hold this position for 30 – 60 seconds. Repeat this process with the other leg and perform 2-5 sets in total (depending on the tightness of your hips). This exercise can also be done with both legs at the same time; Do whichever version works best for you!
(Image by Workouttrends)
*Tip: Keep your back as flat as possible and try to avoid raising your hips off the ground.
Child’s pose/Prayer stretch
This is another great exercise to stretch out your lower back. Common in yoga, it works both the glutes and the hamstrings, while stretching the lower back. To perform this stretch, get into an all-fours position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees slightly wider than your hips. Slowly sit back onto your heels, letting your stomach rest on your thighs, and extend your hands forward as far as possible. Hold this position for 20 – 40 seconds and repeat the exercise 2-4 times.
Another exercise that is commonly used in yoga, this exercise is excellent for extending the back and stretching the lower back. Simply lie flat on your stomach and push up with your hands, keeping your hips on the floor, and extending your upper body as far as possible. Repeat this exercise 2-3 times.
This stretch works both the lower back and the glutes. To execute this stretch, lie flat on your back with your hands in a ‘T’ position. Keeping your shoulders back and on the floor, lift both feet and bring them towards your chest. With your upper body still stationary, lower both knees to one side of your body. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds and repeat on the other side. Repeat this exercise as many times as needed
(Image by Medicalnewstoday)
Working primarily on your glute muscles, this exercise helps to stretch the lower back by relaxing the hips and engaging the glutes. To perform this stretch, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, hip width apart. Press your feet into the ground, lifting your hips and bringing them in line with your shoulder and knees (keep your shoulders back and on the floor). Hold this position for 10-20 seconds and repeat the motion 3-5 times.
(Image by SpineUniverse)
Lower back pain sucks! It reduces your mobility and range of motion and hinders your ability to exercise and do simple everyday tasks. There are ways to reduce the pain, however, such as stretching. Stretching helps to relax your muscles, reduce tightness, increase mobility, increase flexibility, and helps to prevent injury in the future by strengthening your back and glute muscles. With so many benefits it’s a no brainer to start incorporating stretching into your workout regime. Aim to stretch a couple times a week, especially after intense sessions, and you will see positive improvements in your overall fitness.